The Advancement Project summarizes this issue well: Harsh school policies and practices and an increased role of law enforcement in schools have combined to create a “schoolhouse-to-jailhouse track,” in which out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests are increasingly used to deal with student misbehavior, especially for minor incidents, and huge numbers of children and youth are pushed out of school and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. This is more than an education crisis; it is a racial justice crisis because the students pushed out through harsh discipline are disproportionately students of color. Students with disabilities and LGBTQ students are also disproportionately impacted by these ineffective policies.
It is indefensible for any community to plan it's jails based on the test scores of kindergartners. The profound racial disparities that exist in the U.S. criminal justice system are outgrowths of an education system that was intially designed and normed around the values of middle-class white men.
Ending the school to prison pipeline won't come only from ending discriminatory practices but by advancing practices and policies that are rooted in the lived experiences, relationships, and cultural wisdom of young people and communities, particularly those that have been historically marginalized.
IDEA is committed to supporting and amplifying the efforts of individuals, organizations, and others who are actively working to dismantle the pipeline such as the Advancement Project and their Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track program, the Journey for Justice Alliance, Teaching Tolerance, and the Children’s Defense Fund while also promoting places like El Puente, Nuestra Escuela, and Llano Grande Youth Development Center that nurture bi-cultural leadership development and advance models of teaching, learning, and community development that respond to the needs of communities in proactive and visionary ways.
Do you know other resources we should profile here, or do you have questions about this issue? Email IDEA Director of Learning, Dana Bennis at dbennis @ democraticeducation.org.