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Tavis Smiley Examines an Educational System Under Arrest

Tavis Smiley Examines an Educational System Under Arrest

Experts say locking up an 11-year-old for any length of time doesn't make sense. Tavis Smiley Reports: "Education Under Arrest" premiers Tuesday, March 26 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS

LOS ANGELES (March 21, 2013) – A new episode of TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS (TSR), a primetime special on PBS, looks at the connection between the juvenile justice system and the dropout rate among American teens, as well as the efforts by educators, law enforcement professionals, judges, youth advocates and the at-risk teens themselves to end what has become known as “the school-to-prison pipeline.” In the sixth installment of TSR, and the second in a series of education specials, host Tavis Smiley takes his cameras across the country to present a narrative of what is working on the frontlines of reforming the juvenile justice system.

TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS: “Education Under Arrest” premieres Tuesday, March 26, 2013, 8 - 9 p.m. ET on PBS. It is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a public media initiative supported by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to help local communities across America find solutions to the dropout crisis.

In “Education Under Arrest,” Smiley takes a hard look at the consequences of the “zero tolerance” policy and travels to Washington State, Louisiana, Missouri and California, speaking to experts like Judge Jimmie Edwards, principal of Innovative Concept Academy in St. Louis, who believes the policy is not the best route. “Locking up an 11-year-old in jail for any length of time doesn’t make sense for him, for his family and certainly not for his community,” said Judge Edwards.

Also joining Smiley in this special are:

  • 16-year-old Devin and 17-year-old Darlis, two Washington State teens caught up in the juvenile justice system, who speak frankly about the mistakes they’ve made and the consequences of being in lockdown.
  • Sisters Kenyatta and Kennisha, both excellent students from New Orleans who were caught in the zero-tolerance net and arrested for fighting.

The experts and advocates profiled in “Education Under Arrest” say that too often disciplinary problems such as disruptive behavior, foul language and truancy, which in prior generations were handled within the school, are now dealt with through suspension, expulsion and arrests. Two-thirds to three-fourths of teens who are incarcerated in juvenile detention centers withdraw from or drop out of high school.

“The report card is not good. One in every three teens who is arrested, is arrested in school — which literally arrests their progress for a promising education,” says Smiley. “We’re just losing too many kids to this system. There seems to be a highway in but barely a sidewalk out.”

Screenings of “Education Under Arrest,” hosted in-part by Big Brothers Big Sisters, are being held in several markets across the country beginning with a special conversation moderated by Smiley at The California Endowment in Los Angeles, CA on March 18 at 7pm. The Nine Network of Public Media in St. Louis, MO will host a screening on March 19 at 6:30pm. Additional screenings will be held in Albuquerque, NM; New Orleans, LA; Nashville, TN; Birmingham, AL; Chicago, IL; and Philadelphia, PA.

PBS will present this report in conjunction with 180 DAYS: A YEAR INSIDE AN AMERICAN HIGH SCHOOL, immediately following TSR. This special, airing on PBS over two nights on March 25 and 26, presents an intimate portrait of life for the first graduating class of Washington Metropolitan High School (DC Met), a public school in Washington, DC, where only seven percent of students are deemed “proficient” in math and only 19 percent in reading. 180 DAYS is also part of American Graduate.

TAVIS SMILEY REPORTS is produced for PBS by The Smiley Group, Inc./TS Media, Inc. Executive producer is Jacoba Atlas. Funding is provided by W.K. Kellogg Foundation, The California Endowment and The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

For more information, including details on community screenings and web-exclusive content, visit http://to.pbs.org/W18qGl.

About Tavis Smiley

Tavis Smiley is host of the nightly talk show TAVIS SMILEY on PBS as well as the host of The Tavis Smiley Show and co-host of Smiley & West from Public Radio International (PRI). Smiley launched America I AM: The African American Imprint, a world-class exhibition celebrating the extraordinary impact of African American contributions on our nation and the world. Smiley is also the author/editor of 16 books, including New York Times best-sellers Covenant With Black America, What I Know for Sure: My Story of Growing Up in America, and his most recent, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto. In 2009, TIME magazine named him one of the World’s Most Influential People. For more information, visit www.tavistalks.com.

About American Graduate

American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen is helping local communities identify and implement solutions to the high school dropout crisis. American Graduate demonstrates public media’s commitment to education and its deep roots in every community it serves. Beyond providing programming that educates, informs and inspires, public radio and television stations — locally owned and operated — are an important resource in helping to address critical issues, such as the dropout rate.

In addition to national programming, more than 75 public radio and television stations have launched on-the-ground efforts working with community and at-risk youth to keep students on track to high school graduation. More than 800 partnerships have been formed locally through American Graduate, and CPB is working with Alma and Colin Powell’s America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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