By Deacon Mel Tardy
SOUTH BEND — Roughly 50 people of different faiths and racial backgrounds gathered at St. Augustine for “Breaking the School to Prison Pipeline: What Faith-Based Organizations and People Can Do.” The event was hosted by St. Augustine Catholic Church and Community for Peace and Nonviolence on Nov. 14 in recognition of Black Catholic History Month.
The program included a welcome and spiritual reflection by Deacon Mel Tardy of St. Augustine Parish, an introductory video and speakers including Regina Williams-Preston, an educator with South Bend Community School Corporation, and teen panelists Cameronn Teague, Ellie Lora, Lee Harris and Blu Casey.
The “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to policies and practices that, in effect, result in schoolchildren — especially African Americans and those most at-risk — being pushed out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Some suggestions for faith-based organizations and people proposed during the group discussion were restorative justice and character formation; diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency training; mentoring relationships; after-school programs; partnering with parents and with disability advocates like IN*SOURCE, improved school materials and resources; and prayer.
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