“Education Under Arrest” Premieres Tuesday, March 26 at 8pm on PBS
A new episode of TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS (TSR), a primetime special on PBS, looks at the connection between the juvenile justice system and the dropout rate among American teens, as well as the efforts by educators, law enforcement professionals, judges, youth advocates and the at-risk teens themselves to end what has become known as “the school-to-prison pipeline.” In the sixth installment of TSR, and the second in a series of education specials, host Tavis Smiley takes his cameras across the country to present a narrative of what is working on the frontlines of reforming the juvenile justice system.
The sixth episode of TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS, “Education Under Arrest,” premieres Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 8:00-9:00 p.m. ET on PBS. It is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to help local communities across America find solutions to address the dropout crisis.
“Each year, one out of every four students makes the life altering decision to drop out of school resulting in severe consequences for their future and our country,” said Patricia Harrison, president and CEO of CPB. “Through the ‘American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen’ initiative, national public media programming, such as Education Under Arrest, together with America’s public radio and television stations nationwide, are helping to increase awareness of the dropout epidemic and engage local parents, educators and community leaders in finding solutions that keep students on the path to a high school diploma.”
In “Education Under Arrest,” Smiley travels to Washington State, Louisiana, Missouri and California, speaking to experts like Judge Jimmie Edwards, principal of Innovative Concept Academy in St. Louis, who believes the zero-tolerance policy is not the best route. “Locking up an 11-year-old in jail for any length of time doesn’t make sense for him, for his family and certainly not for his community,” said Judge Edwards.
Smiley met with others who are seeking reform, including Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Dr. John Deasy and education advocate Charlaine DeWindt, individuals committed to making sure the students stay engaged, stay in school and away from the courts, and have a promising future. Smiley talks to young law students from Stand Up for Each Other, an organization staffed by Loyola and Tulane University law students, that advocates on behalf of the kids who have been expelled from their schools.
“The report card is not good. One in every three teens who is arrested, is arrested in school — which literally arrests their progress for a promising education,” says Smiley. “We’re just losing too many kids to this system. There seems to be a highway in but barely a sidewalk out.
“Education Under Arrest” takes a hard look at the consequences of “zero tolerance,” when minor infractions can escalate into jail time. Too often, according to experts and advocates working on behalf of at-risk teens, disciplinary problems that in prior generations were handled within the school, such as disruptive behavior, foul language and truancy, are now dealt with through suspension, expulsion and arrests. Two-thirds to three-fourths of teens who are incarcerated in juvenile detention centers withdraw or drop out of high school.
Smiley also talks with some of the teens caught up in the juvenile justice system. At the Juvenile Detention Center in Spokane, Washington, 16-year-olds Devin and Darlis speak frankly about the mistakes they’ve made and the consequences of being in lockdown. While each hopes for a more positive future, they both know the road won’t be easy. In New Orleans, Smiley meets with sisters Kenyatta and Kennisha, both excellent students who got caught in the zero-tolerance net and were arrested for fighting. Stand Up for Each Other helped these sisters challenge their expulsions and return to the classroom. While each is doing very well now, they both speak of how this traumatic experience has affected their emotional well-being.
Screenings of “Education Under Arrest” leading up to the March 26 broadcast are being planned in several markets across the country. Local screenings include: Los Angeles, CA; Albuquerque, NM; New Orleans, LA; Nashville, TN; Birmingham, Alabama; St. Louis, MO; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; Newark, NJ; and Washington, DC.
PBS will present this report in conjunction with 180 DAYS: A YEAR INSIDE AN AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL, immediately following TSR. This special, airing on PBS over two nights on March 25 and 26, presents an intimate portrait of life for the first graduating class of Washington Metropolitan High School (DC Met), a public school in Washington, DC, where only 7 percent of students are deemed “proficient” in math and only 19 percent in reading. 180 DAYS is also part of American Graduate.
TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS is produced for PBS by The Smiley Group, Inc./TS Media, Inc. Executive producer is Jacoba Atlas. Funding is provided by W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The California Endowment and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.
For more information, visit: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/tavissmiley/tsr/education-under-arrest/ for web-exclusive content and to view past episodes.