Why Tell This Story Now?
This is a story we have not heard: East of the River takes place in parts of the nation's capital that rarely receive coverage in media, yet we believe if heard, would resonate deeply with a wide audience. We are choosing to highlight the experiences of young, black female and gender non-conforming students and to cast actual DC youth attending public schools.
To expand the school-to-prison pipeline dialogue: In Monique Morris' book “Pushout,” she explains that “black girls are 16% of the student population, but nearly one-third of all girls referred to law enforcement and more than one-third of all female school-based arrests. The criminalization of black girls is much more than a street phenomenon. It has extended into our schools, disrupting one of the most important protective factors in a girl's life: her education." This film offers a nuanced view of the normalization of zero-tolerance school discipline practices that have profound implications and too often funnel students into the delinquency/criminal systems.
Film Should Be Inclusive: Movies belong to everyone, but not everyone’s story gets featured on the screen. In films, low-income neighborhoods and the people who live in them are not often portrayed with dignity and respect and instead are often represented through violence and two-dimensional characters. We are all equally important, and drama should not be the preserve of the middle and upper class. We wanted to make this a narrative fiction film because we believe that gives audiences a chance to share in the experience of young people pushed out of schools rather than to see them as stark statistics.
To make is to take action: If you’ve read this far, there is a good chance we are on the same page in saying that the current political situation is really scary. Action can come in all forms, including the way we represent people, places, and circumstances in media. By contributing to this film, we entirely count you as collaborators in this effort.
What is School Pushout?
School pushout refers to policies and practices that push students out of schools and into the delinquency/criminal court systems. Sometimes pushout is literal—when you see students being arrested and handcuffed in schools or shoved outside of doors and picked up by truancy offers; however, pushout takes many other forms – including, zero tolerance policies, overcrowded classrooms, police presence in schools, and failing schools with extremely low rates of proficiency.
Why Does This Matter?
Two of the ten school districts with the highest secondary school suspension rates in the country were located in the greater Ferguson, Missouri area where Michael Brown was fatally shot. Brown’s school issued at least one in-school or out-of-school suspension to 60 percent of the student population. Suspensions and Expulsions increase the likelihood of substance abuse, failing, incarceration, and contact with the criminal justice system. What’s more, research has found that it is a harmful and ineffective practice.
Who Is Affected by School Pushout?
Three million students are suspended from school each year. The vast majority of suspensions are for minor, subjective infractions. Nationally, Black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students. Additionally, 70% of students arrested or referred to police at school are Black and Latino. While Black students represent 16% of enrollment, they represent 31% of school-related arrests. In DC, African-American students are nearly seven times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students