by Robert Schmad
An assistant professor at Appalachian State University recently argued that enforcing behavioral standards in public high schools is rooted in racism and unfairly affects Black students.
In the article “‘Press Charges’: Art Class, White Feelings, and the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” Albert Stabler writes that the desire to punish students for violating school rules, especially when the police are involved, is the result of “the overvaluation of White feelings” harming non-Whites.
Stabler describes himself as “a nearsighted cis white man from Ohio who spent almost eighteen years in Chicago, making art with young people around the city, and participating in the independent art world.” The gender, women’s and sexuality studies professor focuses on the intersection between art, racism and social institutions, such as prisons.
Throughout the article, Stabler makes a number of claims relating to the alleged presence of racism at a public high school he once taught art at. He criticizes White people for “express[ing] the paternalistic view that people of color are like children who cannot appreciate what they are given, nor be trusted to look after themselves” even though the people in high school are, in most cases, legally minors.
Stabler also cites another scholar who argues that a “colorblind” approach to enforcing school policies has disproportionately affected minorities. He dismisses this being an issue of the economic class by stating that “in prisons and schools, the desire to punish is racialized, and the suffering of low-income White communities becomes collateral damage.”
Near the end of his paper, the professor recounts one instance where he saw a post in a Facebook group for high school art teachers in which one member, whom Stabler claims was White, stated that they were assaulted by a student and were soliciting advice as to whether they should press charges.
Most of the teachers in the group, according to Stabler, encouraged the original poster to report the student to authorities.
Though the race of the student assailant was never disclosed, Stabler criticized the response of his fellow art teachers for being “racialized.” In responses to calls for the police to be contacted, he “forthrightly stated [his] view that the police do not and cannot solve interpersonal conflicts.” Stabler says that the attitudes of the other teachers “evokes the myth of inner-city unrest and chaos which drove White flight in the mid-and latter twentieth century”.
To remedy the issues he perceived at the school he instructed at, Stabler made sure to “include critical projects on policing and prisons” in his teaching, though according to him, he struggled to manage the classroom in a way that would make his students feel “relatively relaxed and safe.”
At the conclusion of the article, Stabler states that “a handy list of tips and takeaways is the proper response to the ubiquity and weight of the problem under discussion.” One tip is “enacting an abolitionist and anti-racist pedagogy, within which an abolitionist and anti-racist disciplinary philosophy” being “a crucial element.”
Campus Reform reached out to Stabler for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
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Robert Schmad is a Georgia Campus Correspondent with Campus Reform. He is a sophomore at Emory University, double majoring in Finance and Political Science. He is affiliated with the Emory College Republicans and International Relations Association.