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Blocking the School to Prison Pipeline Saving Our Children
Why Is There A Pipeline?
Excerpt: Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption
By Bryan Stevenson (2014, Penguin Random House)
“This book is about getting closer to mass incarceration and extreme punishment in America. It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us. The prison population has increased from 300,000 people in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today. Some states have no minimum age for prosecuting children as adults; we’ve sent a quarter million kids to adults jails and prisons to serve long prison terms, some under the age of twelve. For years, we’ve been the only country in the world that condemns children to life imprisonment without parole; nearly three thousand juvenile have been sentenced to prison to die. Finally, we spend lots of money. Spending on jails and prisons by state and federal governments has risen from $6.9 billion in 1980 to nearly $80 billion today.” (p. 14-16)
What is the pipeline?
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund defines the pipeline as:
“… funneling of students out of school and into the streets and the juvenile correction system perpetuates a cycle known as the ‘School-to-Prison-Pipeline,’ depriving children and youth of meaningful opportunities for education, future employment, and participation in our democracy.” (stoprecidivism.org)
What has contributed to the expansion of this pipeline?
- The inappropriate use of the court to discipline nonviolent behavioral issues in schools.
- Subsequent referral to the Juvenile Justice System, which is unequipped to treat nonviolent behavior.
- Once arrested and fingerprinted children are trapped in the criminal justice for life.
- The overuse of suspensions and expulsions targeting African American and Hispanic students is documented at 3.5 times the rate of their Caucasian counterparts.
- The subjective use of these practices in minority youth for fairly routine adolescent behavior has a high correlation with dropout rates. It has also been shown in research that suspensions and expulsions do not curve such behavior.
- Caucasian students are less likely to be suspended or expelled for more concrete offenses, such as vandalism, smoking or skipping school.
- Engage in deliberate efforts to create a positive school climate working with parents and teachers
- Establish clear and appropriate behavioral expectations and consistent consequences.
- Establish equity and consistency in behavioral management setting a goal of continuous improvement.
- Parent and child-focused engagement to support the improved school environment.
We Address Solutions:
- Improve Parent-Teacher collaboration
- Improve Parent Advocacy through education and training
- School administration should redesign discipline policies with increased engagement of families
- Schools should adopt restorative justice curriculums to promote social, civic, and financial literacy
- Adopt supportive procedures to address the underlying causes of the misbehavior
What Do You Think:
Did you know there was a school to prison pipeline?
Has your child ever experienced any of these situations?
How do you advocate for your child with the school?