On any given day in the United States, nearly 50,000 young people are held in juvenile justice facilities. In 2015, 69 percent of the young people incarcerated were youth of color, and 73 percent were held for non-violent offenses.
For January, our #OurChallengeOurHope campaign will explore the progress made in closing the school-to-prison pipeline and the challenges educators and communities still face. We will review key factors that continue to contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline and hear from policy experts, formerly incarcerated students, and practitioners about their successes in reducing disciplinary inequities in schools.
WEBINAR: School-to-Prison Pipeline
This webinar examines the role of educators and community leaders in preventing students from entering the school-to-prison pipeline. Our expert panel of education and community leaders discuss how influences both in and out of school can contribute to students being put on a trajectory to incarceration, as well as the policies and practices that can steer students back toward success, whether in schools, juvenile justice education facilities, or re-integration programs.
Stops on the School-to-Prison Pipeline
The school-to-prison pipeline refers to the set of policies and practices that disproportionately push underserved student populations, particularly students of color and students with disabilities or learning differences, out of the public school system and into the criminal justice system. Rather than supporting these students with the counseling and educational services they need, these policies and practices punish students, creating a cyclical pattern of mounting consequences that too often ends with promising students being placed behind bars.
The American Civil Liberties Union describes the following common “stops” that students face within the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Inadequate resources in public schools, including overcrowded classrooms and a lack of qualified teachers and support staff. These circumstances can discourage and disengage students, as well as put additional pressures on educators seeking to meet accountability and performance benchmarks.
- Zero-tolerance policies that automatically impose severe punishment, such as suspension or expulsion, regardless of the circumstances or ages of the students.
- Reliance on police in schools, including school resource officers, who often have little or no training working with youth. Consequently, students are more likely to be arrested in schools for non-violent offences, such as disruptive behavior.
- Disciplinary alternative schools that are not usually held to the same standards as public schools. After being suspended or expelled, students are often sent to these schools and, as a result, may experience a significant lack of academic and social emotional growth
Some students go through this cycle a few times, while other go through it only once, before finding themselves in juvenile detention facilities. These facilities are not known to be academic powerhouses, thus making their re-entry into traditional schools quite difficult.
Racial Disparity of Incarcerated Youth
This map from No Kids in Prison includes the rates of incarceration for each state broken out by race, ethnicity, and gender. You can click on a state to see that state’s overall number of incarcerated youth, and breakdowns of incarcerated youth by race, ethnicity, and gender as compared to the general youth population in that state.
Segregation 2.0: America’s School-to-Prison Pipeline
Increasingly, disciplinary policies are forcing students of color out of the educational system and into the criminal justice system. In this piece from MSNBC, Dennis Parker, director of the ACLU’s Racial Justice Program, explores the root causes behind the school-to-prison pipeline and the connection to Brown v. Board of Education.
INFOGRAPHIC: School-to-Prison Pipeline
In this infographic from the ACLU, learn how zero-tolerance policies are criminalizing minor infractions of school rules and how black students are disproportionately affected by school disciplinary policies.
A Real Crime: The Human Cost of the School-to-Prison Pipeline
When she was in middle school, Gloria was waiting in the lunch line when another student cut in front of her — and picked a fight with her friends. In the aftermath, Gloria was expelled, typecast, and nearly lost to both herself and her community. This video highlights the human cost of zero tolerance policies and what school systems need to provide to help their students grow rather than adding pain and difficulty.