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If you’re a teacher who has ever taught K-12, do you ever think back and wonder what happened to some of those kids?

Little Johnny, who worked your nerves because he always threw those doggone paper airplanes when he thought you weren’t looking.

Nikki, who never seemed to be in a good mood.

And David.

Yeah. That David. The boy you always ended up sending to the principals office.

If you’re feeling bad as the teacher, you can imagine how that principal must be feeling. She or he is the one who really had to do the disciplining. He is the one that had to make the tough choices.

She is the one who had to live with those choices, even years later, after she knew better. Thought differently. Had that “come to Jesus moment” that made her see things in a different light.

That’s what happened to Nancy Hanks, who looked up from her cell phone one day just as a former student she had expelled when she was principal at one of Chicago’s toughest schools walked into an elevator with her. Now the Chief of Schools in Madison, Wisconsin, Hanks relates the experience that changed the way she now approaches discipline.


She knew him instantly. And a swarm of guilt feelings consumed her as questions filled her head wondering how he had turned out.

Had he turned criminal? Had he been incarcerated? Was he still mad at her?

Why had she kicked him out of school? She could have chosen a different path, and a more courageous one, she said, as she shared the details of the encounter in a speech last month in Washington at the 25th anniversary summit for Teach for America, where she is an alum.

But game face intact, she simply smiled at the student and said, “Hi sweetie.”

Watch the video below and hear how she tells what happened — both after she left her post as principal at that school, and what happened to this kid she met once more in the elevator.

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3 thoughts on “A Former School Principal Has A Moving Take On The School To Prison Pipeline [WATCH]

  1. leadjustone on said:

    I agree that teachers are “there to teach”, and that learning to be self-disciplined should start at home. However all to often, this simply does not happen. When children come to school without those skills, someone has to teach them. When we don’t do that, the kids who lack those skills, get suspended repeatedly, then expelled, then go to jail, get released and return to the community to wreak havoc on everyone else. No easy solution, but we have to find a better way.

  2. October 1 on said:

    Linda. Parents must be involved with the child’s education. Too many are sent to school without 1) home training and 2) reading skills. We cannot and should not put all the blame on the teacher. They are there to teach not teach and be a parent to unruly, undisciplined children. It should start in the home not in the classroom.

  3. Linda on said:

    The mentality of our so called “educators” simply needs to change.

    First, you need to have better educated teachers who are dedicated to just that-TEACHING THE NEXT GENERATION.

    Second, you cannot have Caucasian or teachers of color who see minority children as having lower expectations when it comes to learning. THINK POSITIVE!

    Third, teachers need to be better equipped on how to resolve conflicts amongst themselves and their pupils without sending the child to the principal which often results in suspension.

    The only reason why there even is a SCHOOL TO PRISON pipeline in this country is that PRISONS

    Prisons are privately run-they receive FREE LABOR AND ARE EXTREMELY PROFITABLE!
    AND WE ALL KNOW HOW CAPITALISTIC AMERYKAH IS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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