It’s unfortunate that years of discrimination have conditioned many people of color to expect unfairness and accept injustice with sad resignation. However, there are occasions when the insult, humiliation and injury are too great to overlook. The fate of three students in Ann Arbor has become that story for many in the community, and supporters have taken to the streets and the meeting room to voice their displeasure.

Back in October, the head football coaches for rival Pioneer and Huron high schools got into an argument after a game. One coach reportedly shoved the other, and within a matter of seconds, scores of players and others were throwing punches and kicks. In the aftermath, the coaches left their jobs, and an unknown number of students are believed to have been suspended from school.

But only three students were criminally charged as a result of the incident: all of African descent.

For several years, the ACLU of Michigan has researched, investigated, analyzed and campaigned against the school-to-prison pipeline. Grossly disproportionate suspensions and expulsions of black students from schools tend to result in their overrepresentation in the criminal justice system.

They've heard our message in Ann Arbor. When members of the community considered that this incident was triggered by the conduct of white coaches, the injustice of leaving only three black student athletes to navigate the criminal justice system stood out as a clear part of the school-to-prison pipeline problem.

There are ongoing efforts to organize support for the students. This week, even the Ann Arbor School Board called for all charges related to the football brawl to be dropped.

As part of our work fighting the pathway to prison for young students, we have written to the prosecutor in these young men's case, explaining the importance of recognizing that they are members of an at-risk demographic and recommending alternatives to criminal charges that might prevent damage to their futures.

More importantly for the futures of all our students, we have urged that the prosecutor work with us to establish a restorative justice program in the Washtenaw County courts that can be employed to prevent unnecessary incarceration that can be available when similar incidents occur.

We cannot stand by while our children's futures are thrown away, and like the people of Ann Arbor, we must face injustice with the courage to change for the better. 

Key News and Resources

Read our letter to the prosecutor

Contact us to volunteer to help end the school-to-prison pipeline 

Student Know Your Rights Cards (pdf)

Reclaiming Michigan’s Throwaway Kids: Students Trapped in the School-to-Prison Pipeline (pdf)

The School to Prison Pipeline