Glenfield Students Have Larger Than Life Experience
Monday, January 9, 2017
"Every so often Glenfield can bring more to our students than the arts and academics,” said Principal Joseph Putrino. “The job of the educator has grown outside the typical expectations of the school. Our mission is to capitalize on teachable moments and expand our students’ critical thinking about life decisions. Last month our seventh and eighth graders as well as some select sixth graders took part in in one of these larger than life experiences.”
Glenfield Social Studies and STEM teacher Frances Aboushi offers a class in Human Rights and Violations. Her classroom conversations led her to connect with the Innocence Project and the case of Gerard Richardson. She felt very strongly about bringing this issue to the students at Glenfield.
Richardson, who was joined by his fiancé, father and brother, talked about his experience. On February 25, 1994, his life changed forever. He was arrested for a murder that he claimed he did not commit. He was sentenced to 30 years of which he served 18. During his incarceration, he became aware of new technology related to DNA testing that could help prove his case. With the assistance of the Innocence Project, Richardson was exonerated and released on December 17, 2013. Richardson did not sugar coat the mistakes that he made in life. Rather he owned his decisions and spoke to the students about how all of their choices matter. He admitted how, as a young man, he was exposed to, and subsequently sold, drugs. In his speech he challenged students to think about whether making the choice to be involved in poor lifestyle choices makes you a “bad” person. The students further learned that it was his poor choices that led him to be arrested and convicted of a crime he did not commit.
Richardson explained to students that before this all happened to him he would mock convicted criminals for touting that they were innocent until it became his reality. He also took questions from the audience which ranged from asking for clarity about how something like this could happen to curiosity about Gerard’s life now: “Do you have a job?”, “Did you get compensated?”, “Did anyone apologize?”, “Did this experience change you?”
Richardson has since dedicated his life to speaking about these events to students and in political circles to raise awareness. He told Principal Putrino after the assembly, “If I could have reached just one student today and for that student to simply reflect on how any decision could guide their future, then all of my time behind bars was worth it.”
The Innocence Project, founded in 1992 by Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck at Cardozo School of Law, exonerates the wrongly convicted through DNA testing and reforms the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice. The Innocence Project's mission is to free innocent people who remain incarcerated, and to bring reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.