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opportunity to earn a high school

individual to work with kids, and I

potential and promise, the different

diploma. For those defending the

don’t think I’m that person,’” he said,

dimensions of human existence that

expulsions, the hardline stance was

with a laugh.

shape people.”

necessary to maintaining discipline

If he doubted the suitability

Carson’s brand of self-improve-

and eliminating disruptive influences

of his temperament to work with

ment goes well beyond encouraging

that hinder the educational process.

children, he never once questioned

words and pats on the back. He’s a

The controversy brewed, at one

the call he heard to do so. Carson

student of psychology, with a deep

point leading to a two-day closing of

answered by becoming actively

interest in the complexities of the

all three Decatur high schools over

involved — as a preacher, teacher,

human condition and how people

fears of civil dissent. Eventually,

and mentor in preparing young peo-

interact with one another. This curi-

then-Governor George Ryan inter-

ple for life and providing them the

osity has resulted in insights that

vened and a compromise was reached

wisdom and courage to pursue their

serve him well as a member of a

in which the expulsion was reduced


school board that must look out for

to a single year, during which time

“When I really took a look at

the best interests of students from

the students would be provided an

young people’s lives and how they’re

diverse backgrounds and with dif-

opportunity for alternative education.

easily led astray and feel unloved and

ferent abilities.

The decision wasn’t immedi-

unappreciated, I decided that I had

“For a straight-A student who is

ately life-changing for Carson, who

to do something about it,” Carson

used to success, a single bad grade

continued to struggle in school, and

said. “So this provided an opportuni-

can be detrimental to their confi-

with the law. He also still didn’t fully

ty to expand on the work that I do on

dence. For a kid who lives in poverty,

grasp the magnitude of the national conversation that he had helped spark. But after the TV cameras and reporters left Decatur, he was aware that Jackson was still by his side. His continuing advice and encouragement instilled in Carson the will to persevere. “Reverend Jackson took us under his wing to show us a dif-

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ferent side of life. He really helped me,” Carson said. “The fight and the expulsion definitely changed my life. But the response to all of that really provided me a positive understanding of what life can be. If I hadn’t been threatened with expulsion and the reverend hadn’t come, I don’t know where I’d be today.” His journey from expelled and indifferent student to respected school board member isn’t the only unlikely turn that his life has taken. “I can’t help but to love kids.

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But I always said, ‘it takes a special


March/April 2017


The Illinois School Board Journal, March/April 2018  

A bimonthly magazine for public school board members and administrators highlighting issues in education.

The Illinois School Board Journal, March/April 2018  

A bimonthly magazine for public school board members and administrators highlighting issues in education.