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School-To-Prison Pipeline 101

The ACLU defines it as “a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.” Regrettably, this trend not endemic in the United States. Their description continues, “Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out. ‘Zero-tolerance’ policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in school lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.” Observations of this dead-end pathway suggest that it functions both directly and indirectly, like high stakes testing requirements for example.

The school-to-prison pipeline is a scheme that exploits at-risk-youth and exacerbates cultural inequalities. Carla Amurao reports “Students who are forced out of school for disruptive behavior are usually sent back to the origin of their angst and unhappiness—their home environments or their neighborhoods, which are filled with negative influence. Those who are forced out for smaller offenses become hardened, confused, embittered. Those who are unnecessarily forced out of school become stigmatized and fall behind in their studies; many eventually decide to drop out of school altogether, and many others commit crimes in their communities.”

In what can be viewed as yet another form of racial oppression, Wikipedia outlines a number of factors that collide to form the school-to-prison pipeline.

Zero-tolerance policy: This process “imposes severe discipline on students without regard to individual circumstances. The American Bar Association has been critical of these policies, calling them a ‘one-size-fits-all solution’ that ‘has redefined students as criminals.’” Additionally, the policy is connected to a rise in suspension rates, predominantly for Blacks and Latinos accused of non-violent crimes such as cell phone use, truancy and dress code violations. Findings also indicate that zero-tolerance policies put children on the fast track for incarceration.

High stakes testing: Thanks to the No Child Left Behind Act, an increasing number of schools are penalized for poor test scores. As a result, teachers in under-performing schools are pressured to spend a large amount of time preparing students for these tests which are thought to promote dogmatic memorization, with little emphasis on developing critical thinking skills. Additional studies show that minority (read, Blacks & Latinos) are excessively subject to exit exams which determine eligibility to graduate. Ironically “These same students are likely to be in schools that have less funding and larger class sizes. Furthermore, their schools are often suffering—due to being punished for low test scores.”

Excessive policing: Often carried out by poorly trained officers.

Unequal sentencing: Parallel to the recent our recent story discussing Noam Chomsky’s take on the “War on Drugs”, studies show students with lower test scores receive more punitive action for breaking the rules than that of pupils at others schools.

Resource diversion: The ACLU claims that resources used to beef up security in pipeline prone schools could be used to enrich them, as these institutes typically lack essential resources such as textbooks computers, and libraries.

Institutional similarity: Directly from the informational site Another facet of the school-to-prison pipeline involves overlapping patterns of institutional structure. These include disciplinary and bureaucratic practices for storing human beings in buildings, as well as institutional culture that degrades the people affected. A simple but widespread example of this culture is the division of students into “good kids” and “bad kids,” which paves the way for the promotion of some and the abandonment of others (often resulting in identification with ‘badness’)”

SuspensionStories.com’s info-graphic illustrates the process rather vividly:

School-To-Prison Pipeline 101

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  • Starla

    Informative article, but it left out the why of it all. These kids are being funneled into the prisons for one reason only, profit. Prison like anything else is a business and for any business to stay profitable it needs workers. These children and their future is what keeps the prison business alive and profitable for venture capitalists and shareholders. It’s modern day slavery! Only thing now is that Black guards are working along side massa to keep everything running smoothly.

    Lil Ethan and Noah who are acting up are not automatically suspended and sent to Juvie so they can be recorded and put in the computer system and tracked so as to get them into the prison system expeditiously, no, they are sent to the guidance counselor to talk about their feelings, they are assigned to therapy if needs be, so they can work through their issues. Jermaine and Dante do not get any such opportunities, there is no guidance counselor for them, there is no therapy session, all they will see is a cell and being told that if they keep it up prison will be their future.

    • Exactly! The thing that is missing from this article is that black children are still being used for profit much like during slavery.

      IMO, the entire juvenile detention system would collapse if states were forced to treat our black children equally and with dignity. If a CHILD has a problem, make sure that the teacher is doing his job, the child has enough sleep, food, and stability at home, or provide counseling. Instead, they are sent to quasi-prison where they are tagged and released after the state has made it’s money.

      A blatant case of this was the “kid for cash” in PA but it’s going on around the country which is why black children are overrepresented in juvenile detention around the country. I am losing hope that anyone will save those poor kids.

  • kelly

    Thank you so much for this.

  • I am embarrassed to say that I didn’t have a great understanding of what people meant by “school to prison pipeline,” so this was extremely helpful.

  • This is exactingly, what the documentary “Elementary Genocide” discusses in-depth. If you have not seen it order a copy online.

    Elementary Genocide: From Primary to Penitentiary” exposes the socially engineered mechanism created by our government and utilizing the public school system to label elementary aged African American males as work for hire targets within the US penal system. Many refuse to believe there is a corporate attack on the minds and productivity of Black youth through intercepting their educational, economical and social development, and resulting in statistically funneling them through the revolving doors of the criminal justice system. Elementary Genocide confirms this theory and seeks to educate parents, teachers and families, so that we can reclaim our young men and ensure the future of our community.

  • Angie

    Incredibly sad. I really wish everyone would read this and then fight for the children.