“Even though we have a voice, nobody heard it. Nobody heard it for a long time,” a parent says at the opening of the film.
The documentary was produced by Advocates for Children’s Services, a project of Legal Aid of North Carolina. The lawyers and staff of the organization bought a $200 camera and over 18 months shot raw interviews of parents and students who’ve been affected by the pipeline. After piecing it together, “Mission Critical: Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Wake County” was released last week at a community screening.
“We really wanted to humanize and personalize what really is a civil rights crisis in our community,” said Jason Langberg, supervising attorney at the Advocates for Children’s Services and one of the film’s directors.
Wake County Public Schools has one the biggest school-to-prison pipelines in the nation, Langberg said. During the 2011-2012 school year, the district gave out 14,223 short-term suspensions and 403 long-term suspensions. The figure amounts to one suspension given for every 10 students, according to a report by Advocates for Children’s Services.
Suspensions also disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities.
“African-American students are six times more likely than white students to be suspended for the same offenses,” Langberg said.
North Carolina is one of two states to treat 16- and 17-year-olds as adults when charged with criminal offenses, which can lead to life-long consequences, he said.
“This issue is very real and very destructive for families,” Langberg said.
Watch the documentary below: