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NC Education Lawyer Blog

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The School-to-Prison Pipeline




What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline


The school-to-prison pipeline refers to policies and procedures that encourage the presence of law enforcement at schools, harsh tactics including physical restraint being used as discipline, and automatic punishments that result in suspensions and out-of-class time all of which increase the likelihood that a student will be introduced to the criminal justice system.


Who does the School-to-Prison Pipeline Effect


The school-to-prison pipeline can affect any student. However, racial minorities and children with disabilities are disproportionately represented in the school-to-prison pipeline. African-American students are 3.5 times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled, while students with disabilities, who make up roughly 8.6 percent of public school population, make up 32 percent of youth in juvenile detention centers. Approximiately 1 in 4 black children with disabilities were suspended at least once, versus 1 in 11 white students, according to an analysis of the government report by Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA.



How do help students avoid the school-ti-prison pipeline


Teachers can help students avoid the school-to-prison pipeline by implementing positive behavior interventions and supports early and often. In order to do this though, teachers need additional support (e.g. another qualified adult) in the classroom to assist with these efforts. Every schools needs a school psychologist, social worker and school nurse to help support at-risk youth. School districts need to collect data on disciplinary actions that are pushing students of color, students with disabilities, or other historically marginalized groups out of the classroom.


If law enforcement is to remain in schools, they must be crisis intervention trained. The use of restraints, tasers, handcuffs, and firearms should not be used unless a student poses a real and imminent threat to the remainder of the students and staff (e.g. an active school shooter). Law enforcement that work in schools should be required to be aware of, and required to act in accordance with students' Individualized Education Programs, Behavior Intervention Plans, Section 504 Plans, Health Plans and/or Crisis Plans. The standard for being a School Resource Officer ("SRO") or law enforcement officer assigned to a school should stringent, and require additional training.





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