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‘Our kids are in crisis:’ St. Louis youth face challenges in school, health, juvenile system

Karen Anderson (left) and Kathryn Banks (right) address inequities in quality of education, rate of school suspensions and more that St. Louis youth face.
Lara Hamdan | St. Louis Public Radio
Karen Anderson (left) and Kathryn Banks (right) address inequities in quality of education, rate of school suspensions and more that St. Louis youth face.

The Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice advocacy program continues to bring awareness to critical issues in the region – this time for injustices disadvantaged youth in St. Louis are facing. Their upcoming program Juvenile Injustice: Kids in Crisis from School to Courts will address inequities in quality of education, rate of school suspensions and more.

On Wednesday’s St. Louis on the Air, host Don Marsh talked about those injustices with Karen Anderson, pastor at Ward Chapel AME Church and president of Metropolitan Congregations United (MCU), and Kathryn Banks, lecturer in law and director of the Children’s Rights Clinic at Washington University School of Law.

Listen to the full discussion:

Banks said kids are facing challenges in many places of their lives.

“Our kids are in crisis,” Banks said. “It is the juvenile justice system, it’s the educational system, it’s the mental health systems, it’s health systems throughout the areas, interactions with police agencies … it’s important that we as adults and stake holders look at all of those different areas and address those.”

She said that it is dangerous to profile the types of children mainly affected by the inequities.

“When you start making exceptions, then you miss kids who are also being impacted,” she said. But, she noted that African-American males are the ones disproportionately impacted.

Anderson said children of all ages are also affected – including those in kindergarten.

“We’re talking about children as young as kindergarten being expelled from school for behavioral issues and particularly disproportionally for children of color where they’re not given an opportunity for council or a second chance,” Anderson said.

She said the earlier children begin to experience expulsion from school, the more likely they’ll have contact with police as they grow up. MCU’s Pathways to Power program, previously known as Break the Pipeline, takes a “three-prong approach” and looks at school, police and juvenile justice reform to make changes to discipline.

Anderson said that last year, St. Louis Public Schools eliminated out-of-school suspension for kindergarten through third grade. This year, the Maplewood-Richmond Heights school district pledged to end out-of-school suspensions all together.

“There’s probably a good 23 other school districts who, within the next year to two years, have agreed to seriously look at and change their policies,” she said.

Related Event:

What: Womens Voices Raised for Social Justice Presents "Juvenile Injustice: Kids in Crisis from School to Courts"
When: Feb. 8, 2018 at 7:00 p.m.
Where: The Heights, 8001 Dale Avenue, St. Louis, MO 63117

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Lara Hamdan give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.
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