Boy Scouts, Black kids, and School Suspensions

Tucker, an 18 year old youth, volunteered for the US Army. “I have always wanted to be a soldier,” he told me during his pre-exam interview. “Nothing’s going to stop me!”

When I asked about use of marijuana or other drugs, he was adamant. “I knew drugs could prevent me from being accepted, so I never used any. I had lots of chances in middle school. Some of my friends smoked, but I decided they were not going to be my friends and got into a different group of kids.”

Later he admitted that he had been suspended from school as a sophomore. “Tell me about that,” I prompted.

I had a knife in my pocket.”

“Really? Why was that?”

“I’m a Boy Scout and we had been on a camping trip that weekend and I just forgot I had it in my pocket, so I took it to the teacher and she sent me to the principal.”

“So he kept you out of school for a couple of days? What did he think that would do for you?” I asked with rage growing in my chest.

“Actually, I had to go to an alternative school. He said he had to expel me because that was the law!”

This handsome, smart, now Eagle Scout, spent a semester in a school filled with drug using, angry kids, who had no interest in learning or making anything of themselves because some politicians thought that would help them get re-elected! Tucker’s determination to be a soldier, his belief in himself, and the Boy Scouts foiled them! He kept going and will work to protect his principal and all the others who tried to stop him with their foolish “Zero Tolerance” rules and sentences.

There aren’t a lot of Black Eagle Scouts, but there are too many Black boys suspended from school. It may well be that a higher percentage of Black boys violate school or society rules, but African-Americans are three times as likely and Latinos twice as likely to be suspended compared to Whites who are guilty of the same offence.

In an attempt to correct this discrepancy the Nashville Metro School System has joined forces with PASSAGE, or Positive and Safe Schools Advancing Greater Equity, which is designed to reduce the disparities in suspension rates among minority students by addressing the root of problems. After three years the program has markedly reduced the number of suspensions for all students. And rightly so, for it is well known that students who miss more than 10 percent of school — for any reason — struggle academically.

In an article in The Tennessean, earlier this month, Tia Martinez, a national expert on the school-to-prison pipeline is quoted as saying, “If they (students) get caught in suspension feedback, eventually they will spend time in jail.” And added that black students who are suspended are less likely to graduate and, nationally, 68 percent of all black males without a diploma do time in prison.

Tucker was not in the Nashville Metro School system, matter of fact he wasn’t even from Tennessee, but he had parents who were interested in his education, and the Boy Scouts and their leaders took an active interest in his success. We need more Scout leaders and others like them who are willing to help young people of every Race and social circumstance become men and women of character.

Be that person!

A big happy thank you to all the Boy Scout Leaders, Teachers, and Parents who areImage result for black boy scouts willing to do all they can to help our sons and boys everywhere!

Please send this on to any Boy Scout leader you know and thank them for all they do for our boys.



  1. Thanks Jean. Caring for kids, of any age, in any capacity, is the most awesome privilege. Parenting is the highest vocation and in most cases the most rewarding. If anything I do or say helps people be better parents I’ll do it, and I know you will too.

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