The Class Divide

"Americans need to reexamine the true objectives of our public school system. We know that the moment we put handcuffs on a child in school, we double their chances of dropping out, yet this happens every day, with great and measurable bias. If we send American children to school to be inspired, then this constant presence of armed state agents enforcing the criminal code in classrooms, marks a clear and willful failure that has to be remedied."

Jesse Williams


Jesse Williams journeys to the Gulf Coast town of St. Petersburg, Florida, once known for its beaches and pleasant weather, but now notorious for being the unlikely epicenter of the student achievement gap and school-to- prison pipeline. Williams investigates how resegregation has led to a massive educational and criminal justice divide for the students — and witnesses the community’s efforts to confront the school system and heal the divide.

Watch episodes 2 & 3 to view the full story.


The Issues

Clip: Jesse Williams in Pinellas County

Clip: Jesse Williams with an elementary school police officer

Clip: Jesse Williams with The Southern Poverty Law Center

Clip: Jesse Williams investigates school funding in Pinellas County

Solutions to Bridge the Divide

Although it’s been 62 years since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling, which declared school segregation unconstitutional, the fact remains that African-American and Latino students overwhelming attend racially segregated schools with limited resources and less experienced teachers, that inappropriately discipline students of color for minor offenses (such as chewing gum, talking back, throwing snowballs), leading to suspensions and arrests.

Research shows that these harsh measures set students on a pathway to prison since students who are suspended are 2x more likely to drop out, and students who drop out are 6x more likely to be institutionalized. But states and schools districts that are ending “Zero Tolerance” policies in favor of common sense disciplinary measures that keep students inside schools are seeing positive results. Check out our partners at the Advancement Project to learn how you can support these measures in your community.