Public education was created as a method to help protect and aid children, but transformed into a system that criminalized and targeted minority students. This problem has been prevalent throughout American history, and has become exacerbated through laws and policies that single out certain students of color. To school-to-prison pipeline is a system that naturalizes the movement of students from their schools into prison. As schools implement zero-tolerance policies such as suspension and expulsion, students are pushed out of schools, into the streets, and into prisons. This issue is aggravated as schools become more militarized with increased police presence and unnecessary security precautions such as x-rays and bag searches before school(Dewitt). All of these measures are more present in schools predominantly dominated by low income students and have significantly little resources. These facets of our education system all contribute to the disparities between students of color, funneling them towards prison.
For a quick overview:
The school-to-prison pipeline is not a new system. By the end of the 1990s, federal law encouraged states to incentive police in schools, raising suspension and expulsion rates. Although intense surveillance can exist in any school, schools that are majority students color have historically relied on reactionary security measures, leading to poor and hostile learning environments. Throughout history, expulsion rates have risen, especially for students of color. Beginning in the 1960s in LA, teachers began moving the responsibility of punishment of students away from schools, creating a vicious cycle where students are punished, expelled and sent into the streets where police were ready to move them towards prison. Borrowed from the war on drugs, states began enforcing these ideas in a very widespread matter and suspension rates rose from 1.7 million in 1974 to 3.1 million in 2000. To visit a more complete overview of the history of the pipeline, visit here.
The public education system now still uses many of these practices, and continues to funnel minority students towards incarceration. Their rates of expulsion and suspension for students of color are much higher and intense than their peers, as they demonstrate the discrepancies between the treatment of students based on race. Although 16% of students are Black, 35% of expelled students are Black. Black students are three times more likely to be arrested, four times more likely to dropout. These dropouts are four times more likely to be arrested (Choice). Within schools, criminalization of normal behaviors is consistent themes in many schools. Behaviors like pushing and shoving turn into battery and talking back has turned into disorderly conduct. This system is not only disproportionately affecting these students’ educations, but their whole lives, as they become trapped in the prison system(Nance). To read more about the school-to-prison pipeline now, click here.
A Call for Action
Although as students there are not very many steps we can take to fix the bigger problems around us, we can help in the classroom. Students can educate their teachers and administrators about restorative justice. Teachers and administrators can also work to help implement alternative methods of punishment and conversation with students into the classroom. Although small, these changes can begin to unravel the biased and racist system that exists.
There are many solutions to combat the school-to-prison pipeline. These reforms must come from schools and prisons. Within schools, zero tolerance policies and other forms of criminalization need to be eradicated in order to stop the pipeline. Punishments must be adjusted to move away from suspension and expulsion, and more towards tactics as restorative justice. Restorative justice is a method of punishment in schools that focuses on communication and building stronger relationships to adjust and fix behaviors (Wechsler). Additionally, police should be removed from schools, along with security measures that are superfluous, reinforcing the pipeline. To read more about how the pipeline can be eradicated, click here.
- Restorative Practices: Fostering Healthy Relationships & Promoting Positive Discipline in Schools: A Guide for Educators
- A Model Code on Education and Dignity
- Addressing the Out-of-School Suspension Crisis: A Policy Guide for School Board Members
To see all my citations, click here.
Thank you so much for reading my page! I hope you learned something and hopefully took something away from my project, and are more aware of the effects our biased school system has on students. Please use the comments below to provide some constructive criticism.