School to Prison Pipeline

cop in school

For a lot of students the public school system has become a pathway to incarceration. School to prison pipeline refers to the policies and procedures being used to push our children out of classrooms and into the criminal justice system. According to American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), children of color are often the target of these “push-out trends” and discriminatory application of discipline. The most at-risk children are also usually affected by these public school policies. This includes children who have learning disabilities and/or developmental delays, children with a history of poverty, and children with history of neglect and/or abuse.

school to prison2( Artwork by Eliyahu BenYsrael

The school to prison pipeline can begin as early as preschool. Sadly, enforcing these policies on our children can potentially discourage them from learning, even at an early age. This could eventually lead to increased dropout rates and involvement with the court and criminal justice system. ACLU stated that the pipeline usually starts with inadequate resources in public schools. When children aren’t given the proper resources it makes success difficult to obtain. Our children are being forced into a situation where they are set up for failure, yet expected to succeed. The resources lacking in some public schools include appropriate classroom sizes and student to teacher ratios, qualified teachers, funding for necessary materials (such as textbooks), and funding for appropriate services (such as counselling and special education services). If public schools fail to meet educational needs, children will fail to meet academic standards and requirements.

Zero-Tolerance policies and other disciplinary practices sometimes put children on a path to dropout and eventually into the hands of the court and criminal justice system. These type of policies give children harsh consequences regardless of circumstances. Some public schools are also now relying on the police department for school discipline. According to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), school- based policing is the fastest growing area of law enforcement. Many school districts have “School Resources Officers” or something similar. With these type of programs in place, officers are policing the hallways of public schools. This puts our children in situations where they are subject to arrests, probation, etc. for issues that should be handled between families and school. The presence of police officers in public schools can also be very intimidating for some children. These programs also make it quite possible for public schools to become more like jailhouses than learning institutions.

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