On the first day of 9th grade, “Fresh Prince” Will Smith decided to make a good first impression by goofing around and seeking his classmates’ attention. But that soon turned into a violent fight between him and another Black student – and that fight changed both of their lives forever.
The other student knocked him out! Smith still remembers what it was like watching police take the kid away in handcuffs. So, almost 40 years later, Smith decided to apologize.
“I couldn’t believe it had escalated to a kid being removed from school,” Smith said. “I was laying in bed that night, just feeling like shit. And I had the recognition that I had caused this kid to throw his life away."
But, although Smith's self-reflection is admirable, there's actually a systemic issue at play.
Because of “zero-tolerance” policies, like those for fighting, Black kids get suspended or expelled 3x as much as white kids, and are 31% of students who end up arrested because of school conflicts. The school-to-prison pipeline means they’re more likely to be sent to a detention center for their behavior.
Smith and his classmate could have been offered uplifting resources to resolve their conflict without violence, instead a kid was handcuffed and processed. The system throws our children away, because they see them as "soon-to-be criminals," not human beings who make mistakes.