Dream Defenders continue to lobby for change

The Tallahassee Chapter of The Dream Defenders will host a town hall meeting on the school-to-prison pipeline at a local church Tuesday.

The meeting, which is open to the public, will be held at Life Without Limits International Church at 7 p.m.

The Florida Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, American Civil Liberties Union and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) will be in attendance. David Utter, SPLC’s director of policy, will speak on behalf of the nonprofit civil rights organization.

Melanie Andrade, a second-year English student and Dream Defender from Poinciana, discovered the school-to-prison pipeline, following the passing of SB (Senate Bill) 2112. According to a summary from the Florida Senate, the bill allows counties “to operate their own detention facility if they cover the financial cost of detention care for pre-adjudicated juveniles” and provides that a county is exempt from the provisions of sections of Florida Statutes “if they are in compliance with specific provisions.”   

Andrade said the law allows juveniles to be housed in adult facilities.

“That’s an atrocity,” she said. “Besides repealing that law, this town hall meeting will shed light on the issues surrounding the school-to-prison pipeline.”

The Dream Defenders oppose the school-to-prison pipeline. The organization believes the pipeline targets at-risk children by throwing them in the juvenile and criminal system.

Elijah Armstrong, a fourth-year political science student from Lakeland and local president of The Dream Defenders, said minority children are targeted.

“It is simply the direct funneling of young people, predominantly people of color, into the prison systems from schools,” Armstrong said. “With policies like the zero tolerance policy, kids are criminalized at a young age. In Polk County’s case, children as young as 8 are incarcerated.”

The Dream Defenders received statewide coverage after 15 members were arrested, following an organized blockage of the intersection of Yamato Road and Military Trail in Boca Raton to raise awareness of the criminalization of young black and brown children.

The Dream Defenders, who are mostly college students, are organizing plans for the upcoming legislative session. As a statewide organization, the Dream Defenders’ goal is to bring 1,000 young people, predominantly people of color, to rally and lobby for change.

For more information on the town hall meeting, which will be located at 1533 S. Monroe St., contact Andrade at 863-588-5642 or Jabari Mickles at 314-482-3187.

For further information on the school-to-prison pipeline, visit www.aclu.org/racial-justice/what-school-prison-pipeline