Sometimes you have to cross over to where justice seems to be on the other side of the ocean.

Next week, CJ Jones, a soft-spoken 19-year-old, and his father plan to do just that. They plan to take a plane from their home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, to Geneva, Switzerland, to inform the UN of what the officials in CJ’s home state were not willing to hear: that the adolescent’s high school years were cut short and his future almost derailed due to a school disciplinary system that has a history of punishing Black students disproportionately and arbitrarily.The two will speak at the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent from April 16–19, accompanied by a delegation from the Southern Poverty Law Center. They will relate an all too familiar tale of a Black student who was expelled and punished for a small, unsubstantiated infraction. Regarding CJ, the school asserted that he was in possession of a tiny quantity of marijuana, which was discovered in a car that was parked at the school. However, the senior in high school who was in the car at the time was not connected to the drug by any evidence, and the police ultimately brought charges against another person.

Instead of being a successful final year as a baseball standout for his high school team, it turned out to be a lonely and distrusting year. Because he was a minor at the time of the incident, CJ’s full identity is being concealed. He spent months being put in school suspension without being given a fair trial. After a school hearing in which he was denied the opportunity to submit evidence, be represented by counsel, or explain his side of the story, he was then informed that he was being sent to a “alternative” school. Instead, he withdrew and used a home-schooling program to complete the requirements for his degree.

CJ remarked, “Nobody, nobody was listening to me.” “I was honest with them, but no one paid attention.”It might seem strange for the SPLC to address abuses committed by American school systems in the U.N. However, the SPLC’s planned attendance at the meeting is a component of a growing plan to leverage the influence of global denunciation to draw attention to the persistent injustices that exist at home.

The SPLC has deliberately used foreign campaigning as an extra weapon over the last three years to further its policy objectives. It sent a mission to the United Nations in 2022 to address U.S. violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and presented a report on the subject. It was followed up on the international scene last year by a series of parallel demonstrations at U.N. conferences on racism, civil and political rights, and racial justice and equality in law enforcement.

The United Nations advocates for universal access to fair and equal education for individuals of African origin. Because of this, the leadership of the SPLC was resolved to seize the chance to present the nation that has long positioned itself as  a beacon of human rights accountable for its failings.

Over the past three years, the SPLC has purposefully employed foreign campaigning as an additional weapon to promote its policy goals. In order to resolve American breaches of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, it dispatched a mission to the UN in 2022 and delivered a report on the matter. A series of concurrent protests at U.N. conferences on racism, civil and political rights, and racial justice and equality in law enforcement followed it on the global stage last year.

We operate in environments where Moms for Liberty and other far-right radicals are elected to school boards, according to Borden. “And there are a lot of far-right politicians in our state legislatures. Additionally, the state legislature consistently thwarts the efforts of local governments that may hold differing opinions in order to accomplish constructive goals.

“I’m not sure if there is a straightforward way to accomplish these things,” the speaker said, referring to the kind of pushback and denial of human rights at the municipal and state levels. Therefore, we must make use of every tool at our disposal for as long as it is made available, according to Borden. “We will keep moving the ball forward even if it means presenting our case before an international body.”

The father of CJ, Cory Jones, stated that his initial response upon learning of his son’s claim was to doubt his own son. Anger was his second emotion. The marijuana belongs to someone else, according to a police inquiry, and there is no proof that CJ did anything improper.

CJ claimed in his lawsuit filed in February that he had been “unlawfully and arbitrarily suspended” and denied his education by Tuscaloosa City Schools.

Even if Jones’ kid had been accountable, the sentence imposed on a pupil who had no prior serious disciplinary issues was appalling, he added.

In the late 1960s, a lot of districts started using alternative schools to provide flexible instruction to students who weren’t flourishing in typical classroom settings. They had evolved into locations to detain pupils for even little, first-time rule violations by the 1990s. Typically, there is a shortage of resources and inadequate staffing in schools. In Alabama, the majority of students enrolled in these kinds of institutions are Black.

Cory Jones compared sending his son to an alternate school to “opening the jail cell for my son.” “I won’t give my son to Alabama to help fill the megaprisons they are building.”

Other schools shouldn’t usually be utilized as a punishment placement for minor infractions, according to the School Superintendents Association, a national organization that has occasionally vehemently defended local administrators’ authority in handling problematic pupils.

Officials from Tuscaloosa City Schools have refrained from discussing CJ’s situation. Officials assert that while handling disciplinary matters, they adhere to set policies and procedures.A study published in 2022 found that, nationwide, 27% of male Black students with disabilities were suspended from middle and high schools compared with 7% of students overall.“Black children in Alabama have historically been forced out of schools and placed in punishment-oriented environments,” stated Delvin Davis, senior policy analyst for decarceration and criminal justice reform at the SPLC. “CJ is just one of many, many examples of a young Black person who ought to be attending school, but instead of giving him resources and an education, they choose to punish and isolate him.”

There is no state-wide regulation in Alabama for giving pupils facing school disciplinary proceedings due process, unlike in Georgia and Mississippi, which are nearby states.

According to Davis, “you can be arbitrarily pushed out without any kind of hearing or phone notification in advance for your parents or your guardians or anybody that can advocate for you,” in Alabama as well as many other states. There isn’t really an opportunity for you to present your position. You can also be used as leverage by the school district to get you to leave, whatever they choose to do with you.

Such unequal treatment has grave consequences. Suspensions raise a student’s risk of dropping out of school or running afoul of the law, according to research that has repeatedly shown this.

People like CJ and his parents are working hard in Tuscaloosa and similar areas to try and topple a system of discrimination that is biased against Black youngsters.

On November 10, 2022, CJ started his journey when he stayed after math class at Paul W. Bryant High School to receive assistance from his teacher. He caught a ride with three other students and a friend after missing the bus to the Tuscaloosa Career and Technology Academy, where he was enrolled in trade classes.

A school resource officer stopped the other four males in the group of boys when they got to the school because he claimed they smelled like marijuana. Inspectors discovered 8 grams of marijuana within the vehicle. Unhindered, CJ proceeded to the classroom to take an exam.

According to CJ, he was called to the office later on, where the other boys were already present. In the end, the car’s driver was committed to juvenile jail. Two other lads were left unscathed. CJ denied using the substance to authorities, and there was never any proof or investigation that connected him to it. He and another boy were nonetheless placed on in-school suspension.

Finally, after skipping classes for two months, CJ’s case was brought before a disciplinary review committee. The hearing was closed to the attorney that CJ’s father had retained. CJ and his family did not testify, and no evidence was presented. District representatives sentenced CJ to 45 days in an alternative school following the hearing.

On the day of his high school graduation, CJ sat silently in the stands. Most of his senior year had been missed. He was not at his prom. His dreams of attending college and playing baseball had been crushed. He had been depressed and alone for months, studying online in front of a computer. However, he was there to support his pals.

Cory Jones battled to hold back his tears in a recent interview, citing the many other young people who were powerless to fight back rather than what had happened to his own kid.I refuse to give up because if I let my child go through this, what will become of the other children who are voiceless? Said Jones. It wears me out emotionally because the story shouldn’t change just because of the color of your skin. Using a baseball example, something is amiss if you are facing home plate and there is already a strike against you. There’s a problem.