Start A Petition

The School-to-Prison Pipeline

Society & Culture  (tags: abuse, americans, children, crime, culture, dishonesty, education, ethics, family, freedoms, gayrights, government, interesting, law, media, police, politics, rights, safety, society, violence )

- 1941 days ago -
In Meridian, Miss., police routinely arrest and transport youths to a juvenile detention center for minor classroom misbehavior. In Jefferson Parish, La., according to a U.S. Department of Justice complaint, school officials have given armed police-->

Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.


Kit B (276)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 12:32 pm
( Image Credit: Teaching Tolerance Magazine)

In Meridian, Miss., police routinely arrest and transport youths to a juvenile detention center for minor classroom misbehaviors. In Jefferson Parish, La., according to a U.S. Department of Justice complaint, school officials have given armed police “unfettered authority to stop, frisk, detain, question, search and arrest schoolchildren on and off school grounds.” In Birmingham, Ala., police officers are permanently stationed in nearly every high school.

In fact, hundreds of school districts across the country employ discipline policies that push students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at alarming rates—a phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Last month, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., held the first federal hearing on the school-to-prison pipeline—an important step toward ending policies that favor incarceration over education and disproportionately push minority students and students with disabilities out of schools and into jails.

In opening the hearing, Durbin told the subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “For many young people, our schools are increasingly a gateway to the criminal justice system. This phenomenon is a consequence of a culture of zero tolerance that is widespread in our schools and is depriving many children of their fundamental right to an education.”

A wide array of organizations—including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP and Dignity in Schools—offered testimony during the hearing. They joined representatives from the Departments of Education and Justice to shine a national spotlight on a situation viewed far too often as a local responsibility.

“We have a national problem that deserves federal action,” Matthew Cregor, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, explained. “With suspension a top predictor of dropout, we must confront this practice if we are ever to end the ‘dropout crisis’ or the so-called achievement gap.” In the words of Vermont’s Sen. Patrick Leahy, “As a nation, we can do better.”

What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
Policies that encourage police presence at schools, harsh tactics including physical restraint, and automatic punishments that result in suspensions and out-of-class time are huge contributors to the pipeline, but the problem is more complex than that.

The school-to-prison pipeline starts (or is best avoided) in the classroom. When combined with zero-tolerance policies, a teacher’s decision to refer students for punishment can mean they are pushed out of the classroom—and much more likely to be introduced into the criminal justice system.

Who’s in the Pipeline?
Students from two groups—racial minorities and children with disabilities—are disproportionately represented in the school-to-prison pipeline. African-American students, for instance, are 3.5 times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled, according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Black children constitute 18 percent of students, but they account 46 percent of those suspended more than once.

For students with disabilities, the numbers are equally troubling. One report found that while 8.6 percent of public school children have been identified as having disabilities that affect their ability to learn, these students make up 32 percent of youth in juvenile detention centers.

The racial disparities are even starker for students with disabilities. About 1 in 4 black children with disabilities were suspended at least once, versus 1 in 11 white students, according to an analysis of the government report by Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.

A landmark study published last year tracked nearly 1 million Texas students for at least six years. The study controlled for more than 80 variables, such as socioeconomic class, to see how they affected the likelihood of school discipline. The study found that African Americans were disproportionately punished compared with otherwise similar white and Latino students. Children with emotional disabilities also were disproportionately suspended and expelled.

In other studies, Losen found racial differences in suspension rates have widened since the early 1970s and that suspension is being used more frequently as a disciplinary tool. But he said his recent study and other research show that removing children from school does not improve their behavior. Instead, it greatly increases the likelihood that they’ll drop out and wind up behind bars.

Punishing Policies
The SPLC advocates for changes to end the school-to-prison pipeline and has filed lawsuits or civil rights complaints against districts with punitive discipline practices that are discriminatory in impact.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers rose 38 percent between 1997 and 2007. Jerri Katzerman, SPLC deputy legal director, said this surge in police on campus has helped to criminalize many students and fill the pipeline.

One 2005 study found that children are far more likely to be arrested at school than they were a generation ago. The vast majority of these arrests are for nonviolent offenses. In most cases, the students are simply being disruptive. And a recent U.S. Department of Education study found that more than 70 percent of students arrested in school-related incidents or referred to law enforcement are black or Hispanic. Zero-tolerance policies, which set one-size-fits-all punishments for a variety of behaviors, have fed these trends.

Best Practices
Instead of pushing children out, Katzerman said, “Teachers need a lot more support and training for effective discipline, and schools need to use best practices for behavior modification to keep these kids in school where they belong.”

Keeping at-risk kids in class can be a tough order for educators under pressure to meet accountability measures, but classroom teachers are in a unique position to divert students from the school-to-prison pipeline.

Teachers know their students better than any resource officer or administrator—which puts them in a singularly empowered position to keep students in the classroom. It’s not easy, but when teachers take a more responsive and less punitive approach in the classroom, students are more likely to complete their education.

The information in "A Teacher's Guide to Rerouting the Pipeline" highlights common scenarios that push young people into the school-to-prison pipeline and offers practical advice for how teachers can dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

>> Avoiding the Pipeline

How can school districts divert the school-to-prison pipeline?

1. Increase the use of positive behavior interventions and supports.

2. Compile annual reports on the total number of disciplinary actions that push students out of the classroom based on gender, race and ability.

3. Create agreements with police departments and court systems to limit arrests at school and the use of restraints, such as mace and handcuffs.

4. Provide simple explanations of infractions and prescribed responses in the student code of conduct to ensure fairness.

5. Create appropriate limits on the use of law enforcement in public schools.

6. Train teachers on the use of positive behavior supports for at-risk students.

**PDF file and links at VISIT SITE***

By: Marilyn Elias | Teaching Tolerance Magazine


David C (29)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 1:34 pm

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 3:36 pm
Looks like an evidence of incapacity if such a teacher's guide is needed- gee, how deep things have sunken.
More $$ out of military spending and in to education!

Angelika R (143)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 3:39 pm
That title alone "school-to-prison-pipeline" is SHOCKING and obvious evidence for the problem to have been known for some time- without proper reaction.

JL A (281)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 6:14 pm
Kudos to Durbin for making more people aware of this ghastly denial of rights!

Tamara Hayes (185)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 8:14 pm
Between the No Child Left Behind and the School to Prison Pipeline, our children don't stand a chance at a decent education. Something has to change drastically and it has to happen now. These are the kids who will one day run this country, and with the way things are going now, they are going to need all of the help they can get, and this is not going to help in the least.

Kathy C (354)
Tuesday January 29, 2013, 9:12 pm
THIS explains what I was reading from many people across the country in the debate over the Newtown, Conn school shooting. Many talked about these types of actions. We have the police here at the high school with no problems. But one school, one town, one county in one State does NOT speak for all schools. I knew that many talking about the same thing had to have some truth to it. NOW I understand it. Thank you for this Kit. We all live in different areas and it helps to understand what others have to deal with

Mitchell D (87)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 11:09 am
Well, if it isn't Louisiana, it's Ole Miss!
And, the RepubliCons will say, "What white privilege are you talking about?" If the culture pushes kids out of school, especially into the judicial system, don't then turn around and say it is the kids' fault for not being able to get a decent education, and career!

Julie E (405)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 11:42 am
Thanks Kit!

Sheryl G (363)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 1:02 pm
I couldn't agree more with you Tamara and with the urgency of change. I just got through reading Brian's story of a 7 year old taken out of school in the Bronx, handcuffed, interrogated for 10 hours for maybe taking $5 that fell on the ground from another student, that led to a childhood scuffle. He was charged with assault and robbery! Well at 7 here he goes......the school to prison pipeline for another youngster.

Story is here if anyone cares to read it.
7 Year Old Handcuffed Interrogated for $5

As I said on that thread this Country has lost all sense of common sense.

I have to say, I'm glad I have most my life behind me at this point, I wouldn't want to be just starting out, but I am of concern for my children and grandchild.


Mary Donnelly (47)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 2:30 pm
Thanks Kit--great post.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 2:58 pm

Or Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma all of the deep south - this runs deep and it should be taken very seriously for the future of our country.

. (0)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 3:05 pm
Is it not a surprise that Miss., Louisiana, and Alabama rank lowest in the country in educational achievement?

Scott haakon (4)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 3:17 pm
This what Political Correctness does.

Yvonne White (229)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 3:18 pm
What is wrong with these people? How are parents Allowing this kind of bullying??? How are they NOT burning down some police stations..sick...:(

Yvonne White (229)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 3:22 pm
That crap is worse than the usual police harrassment we got in the 70's - when they usually just took your booze &/or pot to re-sell back to their was not reported by either side, just a local "custom" that may or may not be gone now.

Tom Edgar (56)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 3:33 pm
This says more about the abysmal standards of the educators than the pupils. I taught (electively) for twelve years, admittedly at a prestigious High School, not once did I have to fill out a slip referring a student for discipline.

My niece taught several times as an exchange teacher in the Bronx. The only enquiries into her class was. "How do you have such a quiet class when all the others are rowdy? She also had, relatively, little trouble with the pupils,in the equally tough area ,where she was the Principal, in Hoxton London. Her problems were mainly with the Thatcherite, Governments, and Bureaucracies.

Sheri Schongold (7)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 4:03 pm
What a horrible injustice is being done to these children. A one-size-fits-everyone in justice is like one-size-fits-all in clothes. Ain't no such thing. I am glad I don't have anyone in any school system anymore.

greenplanet e (155)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 4:36 pm
Terrible that some kids are treated as more or less "disposable." What does that mean -- cheap labor in prisons?

Dana H (229)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 4:57 pm
Thanks for this kit.

Lynn Squance (235)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 6:41 pm
"Instead of pushing children out, Katzerman said, “Teachers need a lot more support and training for effective discipline, and schools need to use best practices for behavior modification to keep these kids in school where they belong.”"

And the Republican/Teabaggers would gut education?!

I think the response to the "pipeline" is multi pronged. $ for proper and up-to-date teacher training in dealing with disruptive students; lower class size so that teachers can deal more effectively with disruptive kids; parental involvement. My neighbour had a son that fit into this category and he was down at the school when they called. There was a team --- parent and teacher. This kid finished highschool, went to trade school and graduated at the top of his class. He made real strides and was the best welder, even though he was still a novice, of all the welders at the mine where he worked. He worked hard and took responsibility. He straightened out. Unfortunately, Jesse is dead as a result of a vehicle accident.

Carolyn L (24)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 7:17 pm
This is a national policy, and it has been going on in California for nearly 30 years. Every 5yrs or so, a media report on disciplinary discrimination would be released, and the all powerful teacher's union would go into damage control. If a teacher didn't like a student, then other teachers would also downgrade that student. They also have a policy of waiting until the last semester, to tell a student that they don't have enough credits to graduate. That could mean only 3 to 5 credits short for a gym class. Two years ago, LASD ended the policy of fines of $250 for tardiness, most kids stayed home rather than be late for school. The LASD and teachers union are currently under fire for covering up, and moving teachers accused of molestation to minority schools

Stephen Brian (23)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 9:14 pm
There are two serious arguments on the other side of things here:

First, kids break the law in school. Bullying is harassment. A schoolyard fight is assault. If we want these things and worse to stop, then school should not be the one place where the law is not enforced. Seriously, what lesson would we expect kids to learn if we keep demonstrating that the law does not apply to them?

That said, if they are just being disruptive in class and not actually committing a serious crime, then they should be disciplined by the school, not the standard justice-system. As pointed out in the comments, those kids may have to be removed from the classroom for the sake of the other students, but perhaps not from the school entirely. Also, as the objective of the law is, primarily, to prevent crime, then supplementing it with better practices in school is definitely a fine idea.

The other issue is that a difference in penalty-rates does not necessarily imply a bigoted system of penalizing students. They could mean genuine differences in behaviour and a fair system. The article refers to kids with disabilities and how they are far more likely to go to juvenile detention and suggests this means something is wrong with the system. It's not the ones without legs who are going to detention. It's the ones diagnosed with mental disabilities.

The trouble with the disabled kids is threefold: First, there is the problem of false positive diagnosis. There is a common suspicion that eight-year-old kids can be diagnosed with ADD or ADHD by having only the attention-span around the low end of what is normal for eight-year-old kids. This is a mild case, but if that is really an issue, consider how likely it is for bad behaviour to be medicalized. I'm not saying, here, that sick kids will misbehave more, but that kids who misbehave will be classified as sick. The second issue is that mental disabilities are regularly used as "crutches", excusing bad behaviour at home and elsewhere by people who don't realize that misbheviour isn't always just a symptom of illness, and many of those kids get spoiled. They really are statistically more likely to misbehave for this reason, though individual cases obviously depend upon upbringing and the individual kid. I remember seeing this very often among disabled campers when working at summer camps which catered to them. The third issue is that emotional instability will cause kids to act out. They may well not be morally responsible for those acts, but that does not decrease the threat or trouble posed to other kids. If a id is extremely disruptive, the fact that it is due to Tourette's and not just regular misbehaviour will not make it easier for the rest of the class to study. Assault due to medical emotional instability will not do less harm than would violence by a healthy person.

The other side to this, with minorities, comes down to the basic difference between liberal and conservative assumptions. Liberals assume that different groups of people are intrinsically the same, while conservatives assume that they are intrinsically different. The differences in penalty-rates only imply a problem in hte system if we assume that cultural differences between the groups in question do not account for the differences in rates. The fact is that in the U.S., children from certain minorities are statistically more likely to have very screwed up home-lives than are white kids, and are more likely to have role-models who are unemployed (not using education and not demonstrating to their kids that they need it) or not abiding by the law. The differences in penalty-rates may just be what happens when a fair and even system is applied to statistically different groups of kids. Of course that doesn't mean there is no problem, only that the problem might not be bigotry in the disciplinary system.

Craig Zimmerman (86)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 9:25 pm
This is one of the reasons why police should not be in schools.

JL A (281)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 9:45 pm
Stephen, OSEP's data also indicate that minority children are disproportionately referred, assessed and deemed special education students, which carries a stigma enhancing interpersonal conflict risks--that indicates a systemic problem of which the disproportionate disciplinary action, including disproportionate severity of action, is but one aspect of the ingrained differential treatment by the schools.

jo M. (3)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 9:47 pm
I imagine it must be much harder these days to discipline troublemakers in the school system. Used to be problem kids were kept after school, sat in a corner, paddled, and further punished by parents when they got home. Now all those are unacceptable, and parents often try to defend their children's misbehavior. I'm sure, though, that there must be a better way to deal with kids than the overkill of involving the police, although it might be wise with violent kids. Agree with Stephan.

SusanAWAY Allen (219)
Wednesday January 30, 2013, 11:01 pm
This is both outrageous and very sad. We, as a nation, are absolutely not doing a very good job in the education department. I doubt seriously the answer is arresting children for having a tussle on the playground or for some other equally low level infraction of the school rules. If there are police in schools, they should be there only for protection from outside sources or to check students for weapons, if it's that type of a situation; however, I don't believe the police should be getting involved in school discipline problems.

We don't provide enough funding for our schools and we certainly don't even entertain the idea of paying teachers fairly for what we expect them to do and for the time they put in over and above normal workdays.

Students need to be engaged and excited about going to school and I don't imagine I would have been very excited if I was going to school in, what sounds almost like, a prison everyday. We need to have counselors available to help with discipline problems, more support for children without outside support, and more help for children that are falling behind. But, again, we can't expect teachers to all of this; others must be hired that are qualified to handle these types of discipline problems or to promote programs, suited to that school, that will help.

I would agree that there is a definitely disparity in the discipline imposed for many reasons; race, background, social status, etc. We don't always have non-discriminatory treatment in this country in the workplace where someone might file a discrimination case, do you really think we're going to have equal treatment where no one can really fight back?

Education that teaches critical thinking and where all students are encouraged to become involved in ways which are suited to the talents of the child; anything to instill a sense of accomplishment. We must build up our young people, not throw them in jail like so much trash. Our children are the future of this nation; that's "all" children, not just "some" children. Everyone needs to have something to gain by success if we are going to succeed as a nation in the future.

Marie W (67)
Thursday January 31, 2013, 12:29 am
USA has world's largest prison population- most for profit.

wendy webber (28)
Thursday January 31, 2013, 12:59 am
Good Morning to you all, Well, here we go again.I have worked in drug rehab within 5 different max 5 prisons in Missouri.One of the things I discovered is, it is employment for the marginally employable due to the standards set to be a guard.I am not talking offenders here (well, ones that have not been caught yet) I am talking about the folks hired from the streets that are guards.Sad, sad statement here.I think we all know this practice, although maybe not as blatant to the naked eye as this approach is (the article), minority's and folks with disabilities have been targeted forever...this is not a new practice. Ok, that said...We do have to sink more money into education, train teachers in crisis intervention and positive reinforcement etc...reward respect for human lives,teach,role model,etc...Not doing so, keeps us in a "class society" structure and allows it to stay firmly entrenched, as we flush more "unaccceptable kids" down the toilet.Hmmmmmmmmmm? We are not born knowing, we have to be taught.So who is failing who here? Social issues...Kids many times are not noticed for acceptable behavior but rather are noticed when they act up.So.....what gets reinforced continues....I know I have not said one thing here that is new to any of you.Prisons are like worker bee colonies in ways.I see this process, as a "socially acceptable" way to separate the haves and have-nots and to continue this generational pattern.Not OK, our children deserve so much more.What happened to "It Takes a Village"....? oh that's right...just MY Village????? the pretty well polished village with gingerbread houses.....and everything-looks-good-on-the-outside status of the "important" children.The future Mitt Romney's of the USA? HMMMMMMMMMMMMMM

Winona K. (0)
Thursday January 31, 2013, 12:37 pm
FL has a long dark history of punishing boys. It's human nature to size a student up as undeserving of respect and education. BUT, it seems taboo to say what's obvious. Middle and high school teachers have way too many students. The schools have it both ways, students are the livelihood and scapegoat simultaneously. My son and I addressed the school board 2 days ago for these very reasons. He has absolutely received a punitive education because he is hard to reach cognitively.Add insult to injury and criminalize the student file to cut scholarship costs. I've subbed for years, can't handle middle and high schoolers because of the massive amount of them. But lightening the load financially and numbers wise by criminalizing students is the real crime. Let's see it for what it is.

Stephen Brian (23)
Thursday January 31, 2013, 8:25 pm
Hi JLA :)

Thanks for the info.

That look like a problem in the system to me, rather than in the communities. While it is possible that certain mental illnesses are substantially more common in one community than another (and there are documented cases of this), usually due to environmental factors at home, it is rare. It is possible that this is the case, and that the statistics about minorities and the disabled are just double-counting the same phenomenon, but this does look like it comes from something in the system. It could be genuine bigotry, it could be a difference in availability of social workers in different communities (leading to different reporting-rates and diagnosis-rates), or it could be misdiagnosis of effects of different subcultures as mental illness (medicalizing misbehaviour). Whatever the reason, this is definitely something worth a closer look.

Sergey K. (0)
Sunday February 3, 2013, 5:32 am
You are very good author of legal articles, I wish you to write something to the section of prison legal news on Attorney Online You and your friends who provide legal services also can submit contacts to Attorney directory and post to Attorney Blog. By the way I also can write something to your legal blog. Contact me please.
Or, log in with your
Facebook account:
Please add your comment: (plain text only please. Allowable HTML: <a>)

Track Comments: Notify me with a personal message when other people comment on this story

Loading Noted By...Please Wait


butterfly credits on the news network

  • credits for vetting a newly submitted story
  • credits for vetting any other story
  • credits for leaving a comment
learn more

Most Active Today in Society & Culture

Content and comments expressed here are the opinions of Care2 users and not necessarily that of or its affiliates.

New to Care2? Start Here.