On one hand, society continues to frame poor and minority youth as troubled and violent populations to be feared, managed, and in many instances, forcibly rooted out. School-districting policies and funding formulas create structures that separate privileged youth from those who are poor and, often times, minorities. Beyond contending with these divide-and-conquer strategies, school children from marginalized communities face enhanced policing efforts, discipline proceedings, and push-out practices. Under the guise of promoting safe schools and gun-free zones, such strategies leave children feeling as if they are under attack. For many, it results in their forcible removal from educational placements and communities. Thus, the children actually become prisoners of the war on youth, which further limits their life chances.
On the other hand, school systems have often encouraged these same children to embrace violence, by luring them into a life of actual armed conflict. They accomplish this through the savvy and strategic efforts of the U.S. military. These tactics include accessing otherwise confidential school records and recruiting children on public school campuses across the country to join the armed forces. Other tactics include using comic books and high-tech video games to draw in such children, which clearly targets some of our most vulnerable young people. Moreover, the federal government has begun helping states divert hundreds of at-risk children to federally funded, residential, military-run academies, where they are urged to take up arms, enlist to become soldiers, and fight wars abroad. Here again, in an even more direct way, our new blackboard battlegrounds work to reduce the chances for survival of our most at-risk youth.
As noted, this Article seeks to document the manifest hostilities that poor and minority children face in our nation's schools. It does so based in part on the professional and personal experiences of the author as a clinical law professor who teaches a Juvenile Rights and Re-Entry Clinic. It critiques the continuing campaigns against such youth in the United States and urges decision-makers to seriously rethink the nation's priorities and recommit the country to the cause of educating children. This Article further serves as a call to action to join conscientious objectors who reject the current state of affairs. It suggests that we must demand and engage in a different kind of surge, one that might help to reduce the casualties and provide a true new way forward for our most imperiled young people.