Being Black & Dead While Excluded

gus john
Professor Gus John

In the context of the tragic killings of young people in recent weeks and months, we have been sent a powerful statement from the Communities Empowerment Network by their co-founder, Gus John (youth worker, scholar, author, and the first black education director in England). It begins:

On Tuesday 8 January 2019, 14 year old Jaden Moodie was stabbed to death on a street in Leyton, East London.  It is alleged that he was deliberately knocked off the moped he was riding and was stabbed repeatedly by three men who had been in the car that rammed him. Moodie had been a student at Heathcote School in Chingford and had been excluded  weeks earlier … This is the latest shocking incident in which an excluded black male school student was killed as a result of serious youth violence.  Given the regularity with which black young people are killed by other young black people, increasingly with both victims and perpetrators being of school age if not excluded from school, it surely is time to ask searching questions about the part that schooling plays in the lives of those young people.

The Communities Empowerment Network (CEN) has been instrumental in challenging unjust and racist school exclusions:

In the first ten years or so CEN was founded, we dealt annually with upwards of 1,000 exclusion cases per year, over 90% of which involved black boys.  Increasingly, we found that those among those excluded were looked after children, children of mixed parentage and those with statements of special educational needs. As current DfE evidence demonstrates, the proportion of children in those categories being routinely excluded increases year on year.  This is why, early in CEN’s life, we adopted the mantra: ‘School exclusion is wasteful, destructive and discriminatory’ and throughout our 20 year history have campaigned for government to adopt a ‘nil exclusion’ policy and devise alternative ways of meeting school students’ complex needs as an inclusive and integrated schooling strategy.

The article goes on to link school exclusions and zero tolerance policies very clearly with violence and ‘gang narratives’:

Turning now specifically to the barbaric murder of Jaden Moodie, it is a matter of grave concern that the ‘gang’ narrative has so distorted people’s understanding of the challenges and threats that young people in our communities face, that the immediate assumption the police, media and indeed communities themselves make is that such incidents are gang related.  The discredited police gang matrix has served to worsen this situation in our view and to encourage schools in further profiling and excluding young people such as Jaden Moodie. So, rather than working to identify what constitutes life outside school for such young people and therefore what support and guidance they might need in school, a process of labelling takes place and with it decisions about who should be considered included and who should be excluded because the school has ‘zero tolerance’ of the conduct with which the young person is believed to be identified.

The full article is attached here and makes compelling reading: Black and dead while excluded

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