Before we start on my topic, here is a little something to think about
What if a a girl threw a tantrum during school? What if she was removed to another room by their teachers, but when she continued her behavior the administration called the police?
What if I told you she was arrested, handcuffed and taken to the station and charged with a felony and two misdemeanors? The felony being battery on a school official, and the misdemeanors being disruption of a school function and the resisting of a law enforcement officer? Or, what if it was found that more than 50 students of color from were taken to juvenile detention centers and were coerced into confessions without being read their rights? What if they were being sent for the smallest transgressions?
These what if’s may sound crazy and extreme, but what’s even more crazy is that these were actual events because of a disciplinary system, better known as the School-To-Prison pipeline. In 2007, a six year old girl threw a tantrum during school in Florida that resulted in her arrest. She was charged with two misdemeanors and a felony and was booked and fingerprinted. In 2012 the United States vs City of Meridian case found that 77 studdents of color from Mississippi were taken to juvenile detention centers for reasons such as being tardy, rude to faculty, and using the bathroom without permission.
For many students education is being denied because of strict policies that push them into prison rather than educate them. These occurances make up the School-To-Prison pipeline. Article 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that everyone has the right to an education. But, are you really getting an education if the school you go to would rather send you to prison than spend time to teaching you?
Read More About my Interest in my Personal Interest Essay: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ark4VvN8ePu1WbtBAS0B-M6flzSJCVbNauhQtF–ooc/edit?usp=sharing
What is the School-To-Prison Pipeline?
The school to prison pipeline is the disproportionate tendency of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, mainly minorities, getting incarcerated due to the increasingly unjust and harsh disciplinary systems and policies in schools. These systems and policies employ harsh tactics and severe punishments to keep students in line, such as suspension, expulsion, and even arrests. Once suspended or expelled, students find themselves stigmatized by their community and more likely to come in contact with the police and later prison. A study done in 2018 found that experiencing only one suspension “increases an individual’s risk of dropping out of school by over 77%” (Pigott). Furthermore, suspensions and expulsions “are clear indicators of future under-education, unemployment, and incarceration” (Scott). Students of color are the most affected by this system. In places with a high concentration of minorites, “there is an increase in school security in the form of metal detectors, security cameras, and bag searches” (Pigott). The latest statistics according to the American Civil Liberties Union points out that “Black youth are 4 times as likely to be arrested as their peers and 7 times as likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct” (ACLU).
The increased security and unequal impact on students of color leads a majority of scholars to believe that the root cause of the School-To-Prison pipeline are the “racist, discriminatory, and ineffective school policies” (Scott). These policies stem from a deep rooted ideology that “Black and Brown bodies are in need of surveillance and control”(Winn). In addition to students of color, students who are not excelling at school also tend to fall prey to the system. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 found a link between “school funding [and] test scores, giving schools incentives to dismiss problem students instead of helping them” (Pigott).
The disciplinary policies behind the School-To-Prison pipeline
As mentioned above, the school to prison pipeline is the disproportionate tendency of youth from disadvantaged backgrounds, mainly minorities, getting incarcerated due to the increasingly unjust and harsh disciplinary systems and policies in schools. The action of combatting infractions, minor or major, with severe punishment is called zero-tolerance policy. The zero-tolerance policy was first used in federal drug enforcement policies in the early 1980s by the U.S. Navy. It was then adopted by the Customs service and allowed customs agents to charge in federal court and seize the belongings of anyone who was found with drugs.
It wasn’t until 1990 under the GUn-Free School Zones Act enacted under President Bill Clinton, that schools began to turn to zero-tolerance policies. Under this act, students had to be expelled for a year and then referred to the criminal justice system after bringing a weapon to school. All states were required to abide by the act or they would not receive any federal funding. Schools were able to modify and expand from only firearms to daggers, pocket knives, or grenades. However, in the early 2000s, zero-tolerance policies started to expand to include more and more punishable behaviors over the years, ranging from “possession of drugs, including Midol and aspirin, to possession of toy guns, insubordination, and disruption” (Dunbar). What started as policy for weapon control quickly escalated to behavioral checks, “many of which pose little or no threat to school safety” (Dunbar).
Read More About the History of the School-To-Prison Pipeline in my Background Essay: https://docs.google.com/document/d/138EwcmP2lICb5hw-JnjYASu6QOaPe-fSsDQz39Uhoxw/edit?usp=sharing
One way we see these discriminatory policies manifest is through special education. Special education is a form of learning provided to students with learning challenges, but has been used as a solution for troubled students. This is done by classifying suspensions and expulsions as special education. Within special education, many soft categories are reliant on subjective assessments. These may vary across states and sometimes even within school districts. Students of color are disparately more impacted by the pipeline because they tend to receive more punishments. This leads to them being overrepresented in special education. Students of color are frequently placed in special education not because they lack any ability, but because of the inadequate decision making by their teachers and administrators. Overrepresentation due to faulty decision making is simply an extension of the pipeline because special education is a “moderate predictor of future suspension, expulsion, under-education, unemployment, and incarceration”(Scott). It was also found that “Classification as special education masks segregation” and by “pathologizing students of color as disabled allows their continued segregation under a seemingly natural and justifiable label” (Meiners).
Read More About the Current School-To-Prison Pipeline in my Current Essay: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1seG9uCykr900Wo8ikoG6V9ssRGwG6HcTsl5_4FXRfOs/edit?usp=sharing
The most visionary response to the school to prison pipeline was under the Obama administration. In 2011, the U.S. Departments of Justice and Education issued a joint directive focused on abolishing school policies that contributed to the school-to-prison pipeline. Titled “The Supportive School Discipline Initiative”, the goal was to, agree, at the local, state and federal level as to what constitutes appropriate disciplinary procedures. Despite the intention, however, they are non-binding, only guidelines and recommendations.
Volunteer with your community!!
- Students who are struggling with school are more likely to be subjected to the school to prison pipeline. To prevent this you can volunteer as a tutor at a school that needs help. Personally, I recommend the organization Reading Partners. This organization sends volunteers to schools to help with students that are below their grade reading level. By tutoring a child, you are indirectly combatting the school to prison pipeline.
Reconize the Discriminatory Policies
- Part of the School-To-Prison pipeline is due to the racist and ineffective policies that schools adopt. As individuals, we can educate ourselves and combat these beliefs by understanding the underlying racialized fears and challenging this way of thinking. The government won’t be able to check in on every single school so it is up to you to speak up with you see something wrong.
Adopt Restorative Justice
- Restorative Justice is an alternative to harsh disciplinary measures, instead, it uses techniques that de-escalate and settle conflicts by encouraging bonds between and reconciling with students, teachers, and peers. It also decreases the number of offenses that can cause a students to recieve the disciplinary measures which would directly combat the fact that since the 1990s, schools have been expanding zero tolerance policies to include minor disruptions.
- A school district in Denver that adopted restorative justice found that “its school disciplinary practices experienced a reduction in student suspension by 44%” (Scott)
Set clear categories and assesments for special education
- As mentioned above within special education, many soft categories are reliant on subjective assessments. These may vary across states and sometimes even within school districts. Students of color are frequently placed in special education not because they lack any ability, but because of the inadequate decision making by their teachers and administrators.
- By establishing clear regulations we can stop overrepresentation in special education
Read More About Solutions in my Current Essay: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1seG9uCykr900Wo8ikoG6V9ssRGwG6HcTsl5_4FXRfOs/edit?usp=sharing
Works Cited and Consulted: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1cqkwsXHrj_acskdOpVPsEax2IaF4Coyl2SOLp3u9pGA/edit?usp=sharing
I would love to hear any thoughts you might have on my presentation.
- Have you heard of the School-To-Prison pipeline before?
- What is a big takeaway for you from this website?
- What action steps do you think work best and will you consider partaking in any of them?