Scholars Not Suspects

The most powerful advocates for youth are youth themselves, and today youth at Riverside High School in Milwaukee, WI made sure that their school board heard their feelings about metal detectors in school. Milwaukee Public Schools made the decision to put metal detectors in every school this year, without the vital input of the community and, most importantly, the youth who would be directly affected.

Youth-led organization Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES) organized the “Scholars Not Suspects” rally to bring together students and to share how metal detectors make them feel. They came wearing orange with printed out bar codes and name placards to capture their feelings of being criminalized in their own school. Hasan Hayder gave his shocking account of being racially profiled while going through the metal detectors. One officer, while searching Hayder’s backpack asked “Are you cooking a bomb in your backpack?”

Students were not alone in raising their voices, Paul Moga, an English teacher at the high school, came to “Scholars Not Suspects” wearing orange and a barcode in solidarity. He said in this video that students do not need to hear they are criminals; “they hear that enough” in the media, in the streets, and now at school where they are meant to feel supported.

As retribution for the protest, the students were kept out of their first class and made to wait outside. Youth leaders Isaiah and Milton expressed frustration at missing learning time and showed the crowd waiting outside of the school in this video. The protest was expressly held in a timeframe that would allow students to get to class on time.

Milwaukee is not the only city that is increasing security measures against the wishes of the community and the youth. After the tragedy in Newtown, almost every state legislature introduced school safety legislation, many of these proposals including increased police presence and metal detectors. Increased police, metal detectors, and surveillance equipment do not result in safe schools; they result in youth who feel criminalized. Check out Advancement Project’s School Safety Resources for more information on youth-led organizations all over the country who are taking action against the criminalization of youth in the name of safety. And follow YES on Facebook and Twitter to see the media coverage they received for “Scholars Not Suspects” and to learn more about their part of this nation-wide, youth-led movement!