The School-to-Prison Pipeline is a deliberate, planned process that pushes students from school to the criminal justice system, based on the “zero tolerance” policy of most school districts. School administrators have nearly unlimited discretion in the application of discipline. All too often school districts have decided to use police to manage simple school infractions for all students, even elementary school students.
Consider this scenario. Police are called to the school for a second grade student that gets into a fight on the playground. If both students are minority students, or one is a minority and one is not, it is likely that the minority students will be taken to juvenile detention about 2/3rds of the time. If both students are white the police are much less likely to be involved. Is this appropriate discipline for seven year old children? This is where the schools have unlimited discretion in how these situations are handled. Hundreds of schools get the police involved, rather than calling the parents and working with them and the children to address these minor discipline problems.
As a result the minority children now have a juvenile record. Once a child has a record, it is much more likely that this child will have one or more subsequent interactions with the Justice System. These same minority students get into a fight in the classroom in the seventh grade. Again the police are called, one student mouths off to the police, he is thrown to the floor and handcuffed in the classroom and taken to jail. Now this student has a jail record. Hopefully, the student will not have to spend time in jail. However, the next time he is picked up for any offense, he will have to do jail time. If he gets out early, then he’ll be on parole and permanently tied to the criminal justice system.
A 2014 ADDA, The Attention Deficit Disorder Association study reported that between 25 and 40 percent of prison inmates have ADHD and most are undiagnosed and untreated. (www.ADD.org)
How can parents work with schools to divert children from the school-to-prison pipeline?
Our best defense to this phenomenon is parental advocacy. The first event in the scenario above, should evoke a strong response from you for the school’s inappropriate use of outside forces; not calling the parents to address the incident with the student and the school. Going forward as the child’s advocate you want the school to agree to call you before calling the police. This should prevent any other encounters with the police regarding your child. We address the issue of advocacy in “Larry’s Advice to Fathers” and “Audrey’s Advice to Mothers” at the end of our book.
First, we must address diagnosis, treatment, grandparents, and teachers. Unaddressed, inappropriate behavior can lead to the scenario above. Let’s assume that the school had not reported any prior incidents with this student, but noted several incidents in the child’s record. The parents are informed of the prior incidents as they learn about the current incident. This is where the parents must take the lead by getting an evaluation of the child to address the unacceptable behavior. The pediatrician and a psychologist shall be consulted and their recommendations shall be shared with the school. Going forward there shall be regular and ongoing communication between the school, the parents and the medical providers.
DEVELOPING OUR CHILDREN’S GIFTS
- Evaluating your child’s professional diagnosis, medication, and therapy plans.
- Advocating for your child.
- Identifying and/or creating networks that understand and support your child’s needs and potential.
- Access to experiences that elicit creativity and the development of talents in art, drama, writing, science and math aptitude.
- Setting objectives and goals with your child at every age.
- Planning for resilience not limits
Our strategy is to promote and support families and educators to recognize and understand the consequences of not addressing specific destabilizing ADHD behaviors including:
- Not learning easily from rewards and punishment
- Difficulty controlling emotions
- Weak executive functioning
Illustrate how vigilant and loving cooperation among family, educators, professionals, and other concerned adults to stabilize behaviors that allow a child’s positive gifts to emerge.
Audrey & Larry are available to present more information about:
CLOSING THE SCHOOL TO PRISON PIPELINE: ONE CHILD AT A TIME