The numbers are in, and they're deeply disturbing. Students of color are three and a half times more likely to be suspended than whites; they're also disproportionately more likely to be expelled. African-American and Latino students are twice as likely as whites to not graduate from high school. "Zero tolerance" policies that criminalize minor student infringements and all-important end-of-year tests may actually encourage schools to push out those who are bringing the numbers down. And once those students are cast out, their lack of education and survival skills sends many of them into crime: 68 percent of male state and federal prison inmates never got their high school diploma. In recent years, this trend has gained a name: the school-to-prison pipeline.
Capping three years of research, analysis and interviews across 20 counties in North Carolina, the Indies Arts Award-winning group Hidden Voices presents its findings in this gallery installation and stage production, which begins in Carrboro this weekend before moving to UNC and Duke. Lynden Harris carefully edits the testimony of those affected—including students, teachers, attorneys, juvenile justice officials and the incarcerated—and puts them on stage to tell their own stories. At its best, Harris' technique confronts us with the challenges our neighbors face—and then challenges us not to look away.