Norman White, Criminal Justice Pioneer Passes

Norman White

Norman White

By Free Radical

Norman White, a pioneering criminal justice professor at SLU passed from a heart attack on Wednesday. He was 64 years old.

Since joining SLU’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, White was known for his scholarship which analyzed how schools and juvenile court systems prematurely and unjustly target marginalized children.

Yet White did not restrict his scholarship to the ivory tower. In 2014, he received a grant to help teachers and administrators recognize the impact that race and trauma have on students and developed effective ways to support them. White also headed the Shut it Down: Closing the School to Prison Pipeline which placed the family court, public schools, and other stakeholders together to alter school culture in order to improve student performance while reducing student interactions with law enforcement.

With student volunteers he also developed the Overground Railroad for Literacy program which tutored local students.

White was also a mainstay during the Ferguson uprising. While on campus, he spray painted “Safe Space” in his office for students to voice their frustrations and map out his strategies during that revolt.

Given his expertise, trial lawyers used him as a witness to advocate for juveniles where he used his theory of risk immersion, which according to his close friend and attorney Nina McDonnell, “argues that children who grow up in extreme poverty and neglect and violence – they are not at risk, they are immersed in risk. That’s the only world they know. They don’t know the world of not being at risk of violence and trauma.”

White leaves a legacy of social justice and scholar activism. According to St. Louis Public Schools superintendent, Kelvin Adams, “He was a passionate advocate for the fair and equitable treatment of kids and families, and we can only honor him if we continue to do the work that he started, training and supporting those who work with children. But this is a tremendous loss.”

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