By now, many of you have heard about Diane Tran, the young person in Texas who was given a $100 fine and a night in jail for missing school. Diane, going to school while working two jobs to support her younger siblings, missed school time due to emotional and physical exhaustion. Her case has brought to light a dysfunctional tangle of economic, educational, and legal systems, while igniting push back from all over the country.
Though Diane’s case is extreme, she is just one of many working-class youth of color impacted by a deteriorating educational system and the prison industrial complex who benefits from its failing. Why are our schools so intimately connected with the criminal legal system? At a time when our education systems are being dismantled and privatized, we need to be more aware than ever of the school to prison pipeline.
With Diane’s case, I am reminded of the Community Rights Campaign and their victory earlier this year, which amended a daytime curfew law which had overwhelmingly put black and brown students in the hands of the Los Angeles Police Department for being late for class. The Community Rights Campaign continues to challenge the school to prison pipeline, demanding that student behavior, including tardiness and truancy, are decriminalized, and dealt with by school officials, not law enforcement. They also call for a restriction of use of force by police on campus, a civilian review board, and an increase in counselors.
Diane's case was not an exception. Hopefully her case, along with the ongoing work of Community Rights Campaign and their allies, highlights the need for policy change. Be sure to sign the petition to revoke the fine and sentencing of honors student Diane Tran!
Mai Doan is the SAFIRE Organizer at Forward Together.