How DM is tackling the school to prison pipeline

    DM took a serious and relevant turn at the start of Block 6, as Kathy Lyons of the Moran Center for Youth Advocacy talked about how Dance Marathon helps block the school-to-prison pipeline. 

    Lyons, a senior staff attorney at the Center, said that it works to offer legal services and advocate on behalf of children abused in the traditional school system. While Evanston is often thought of as affluent, its demographics actually mirror that of Chicago, Lyons said, with 40 percent of students receiving free or reduced lunch and 600 homeless youth in the school system last year. Low income students, students of color and students with learning or emotional disabilities are more likely to be suspended. Those who are suspended are less likely to graduate, and high school drop-outs are more likely to wind up in prison during their lifetime, Lyons said.

    "What you're doing here is keeping kids in school and out of jail," Lyons said.  

    After youth go to jail, a criminal record can prevent people from finding a job, obtaining housing, or receiving a Pell grant and other government forms of aid for education, Lyons said. Therefore Lyons said the Moran Center tries to scrub the criminal records of formerly incarcerated youth, even as they try to prevent youth from being imprisoned.

    "We're trying to work on along that pipeline to make sure kids wind up at Northwestern and not at Cook County Jail," Lyons said. 

    Lyons' speech at DM about working against the school to prison pipeline comes as Unshackle NU completes its four week campaign to raise awareness about mass incarceration and divest from private prisons. One week of their campaign was dedicated to educating students about the school-to-prison-pipeline. The resolution ASG passed last Wednesday in support of divestment contained five references to how the criminal justice system has pervaded schools.

    Lyons speech inspired dancers to think about how feeding youth in need can have larger impacts than just filling bellies. 

    "Its getting kids food, but not just to feed them," McCormick freshman and DM dancer Jack Forsman said. "It's to help them stay in school and better themselves. "


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