The School-to-Prison Pipeline


Illustration by Chris Buzelli

In Meridian, Miss., police routinely arrest and transport youths to a juvenile detention center for minor classroom misbehaviors. In Jefferson Parish, La., according to a U.S. Department of Justice complaint, school officials have given armed police “unfettered authority to stop, frisk, detain, question, search and arrest schoolchildren on and off school grounds.” In Birmingham, Ala., police officers are permanently stationed in nearly every high school.

In fact, hundreds of school districts across the country employ discipline policies that push students out of the classroom and into the criminal justice system at alarming rates—a phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline.

Last month, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., held the first federal hearing on the school-to-prison pipeline—an important step toward ending policies that favor incarceration over education and disproportionately push minority students and students with disabilities out of schools and into jails.

In opening the hearing, Durbin told the subcommittee of the Senate Judiciary Committee, “For many young people, our schools are increasingly a gateway to the criminal justice system. This phenomenon is a consequence of a culture of zero tolerance that is widespread in our schools and is depriving many children of their fundamental right to an education.”

A wide array of organizations—including the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP and Dignity in Schools—offered testimony during the hearing. They joined representatives from the Departments of Education and Justice to shine a national spotlight on a situation viewed far too often as a local responsibility.

“We have a national problem that deserves federal action,” Matthew Cregor, an attorney with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, explained. “With suspension a top predictor of dropout, we must confront this practice if we are ever to end the ‘dropout crisis’ or the so-called achievement gap.” In the words of Vermont’s Sen. Patrick Leahy, “As a nation, we can do better.”

What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?
Policies that encourage police presence at schools, harsh tactics including physical restraint, and automatic punishments that result in suspensions and out-of-class time are huge contributors to the pipeline, but the problem is more complex than that.

The school-to-prison pipeline starts (or is best avoided) in the classroom. When combined with zero-tolerance policies, a teacher’s decision to refer students for punishment can mean they are pushed out of the classroom—and much more likely to be introduced into the criminal justice system.

Who’s in the Pipeline?
Students from two groups—racial minorities and children with disabilities—are disproportionately represented in the school-to-prison pipeline. African-American students, for instance, are 3.5 times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled, according to a nationwide study by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights. Black children constitute 18 percent of students, but they account for 46 percent of those suspended more than once.

For students with disabilities, the numbers are equally troubling. One report found that while 8.6 percent of public school children have been identified as having disabilities that affect their ability to learn, these students make up 32 percent of youth in juvenile detention centers.

The racial disparities are even starker for students with disabilities. About 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.

A landmark study published last year tracked nearly 1 million Texas students for at least six years. The study controlled for more than 80 variables, such as socioeconomic class, to see how they affected the likelihood of school discipline. The study found that African Americans were disproportionately punished compared with otherwise similar white and Latino students. Children with emotional disabilities also were disproportionately suspended and expelled.

In other studies, Losen found racial differences in suspension rates have widened since the early 1970s and that suspension is being used more frequently as a disciplinary tool. But he said his recent study and other research show that removing children from school does not improve their behavior. Instead, it greatly increases the likelihood that they’ll drop out and wind up behind bars.

Punishing Policies
The SPLC advocates for changes to end the school-to-prison pipeline and has filed lawsuits or civil rights complaints against districts with punitive discipline practices that are discriminatory in impact.

According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers rose 38 percent between 1997 and 2007. Jerri Katzerman, SPLC deputy legal director, said this surge in police on campus has helped to criminalize many students and fill the pipeline.

One 2005 study found that children are far more likely to be arrested at school than they were a generation ago. The vast majority of these arrests are for nonviolent offenses. In most cases, the students are simply being disruptive. And a recent U.S. Department of Education study found that more than 70 percent of students arrested in school-related incidents or referred to law enforcement are black or Hispanic. Zero-tolerance policies, which set one-size-fits-all punishments for a variety of behaviors, have fed these trends.

Best Practices
Instead of pushing children out, Katzerman said, “Teachers need a lot more support and training for effective discipline, and schools need to use best practices for behavior modification to keep these kids in school where they belong.”

Keeping at-risk kids in class can be a tough order for educators under pressure to meet accountability measures, but classroom teachers are in a unique position to divert students from the school-to-prison pipeline.

Teachers know their students better than any resource officer or administrator—which puts them in a singularly empowered position to keep students in the classroom. It’s not easy, but when teachers take a more responsive and less punitive approach in the classroom, students are more likely to complete their education.

The information in "A Teacher's Guide to Rerouting the Pipeline" highlights common scenarios that push young people into the school-to-prison pipeline and offers practical advice for how teachers can dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.

>> Avoiding the Pipeline

How can school districts divert the school-to-prison pipeline?
1. Increase the use of positive behavior interventions and supports.
2. Compile annual reports on the total number of disciplinary actions that push students out of the classroom based on gender, race and ability.
3. Create agreements with police departments and court systems to limit arrests at school and the use of restraints, such as mace and handcuffs.
4. Provide simple explanations of infractions and prescribed responses in the student code of conduct to ensure fairness.
5. Create appropriate limits on the use of law enforcement in public schools.
6. Train teachers on the use of positive behavior supports for at-risk students.

>> Toolkit: Want to deepen your understanding of the school-to-prison pipeline

>> Check out our infographic

>> Read the PDF version of this article


An expelled students perspective

Submitted by Anonymous on 30 December 2014 - 4:44pm.

As a student I was expelled from several schools (and suspended innumerable times).

I am white, I am female, I come from a very stable home with well educated parents and my brother and sister were very successful in school, I was an academic learner and not good at hands on stuff. So in most ways quite the opposite to the average except that I fell I to the minority with a behavioural disorder as I suffered from ADHD.

Addressing these problems in the early years is not nessesarily effective as many students (like myself) do not present such challenging behaviour in the early years of education. It is when the middle and high school years begin and expectations grow, freedom increases, peer pressure increases and hormone levels increase that so do many behavioural problems. Secondary teachers can't dismiss this as something for elementary teachers to deal with.

Saying the problem is at home is also unhelpful. Many expelled students come from stable families too.

Placing the. In less restrictive environments may be unhelpful as students with behavioural problems need high levels of structure.

So let's look at the current discipline methods. Suspension = useless. As a students I was suspended innumerable times and each time I actually felt that. I had gotten away with what I did. If I got a detention or so ething it felt like. I had been punished, but if I was suspended it was getting away with it. It was a holiday from school to do as I liked.

In the time students are suspended they may fall behind further, and most students who get suspended already struggle. This will cause more frustration and behaviour problems. There is also the issue of supervision, most families these days have two working parents. If a student is suspended either one must take time off which can cause financial hardship which as we know relates to more behaviour problems. Or the child is left unsupervised which means they make the suspension even more of a fun reward and often end up in trouble with the law.

Suspended students are thrown into a time of no structure or rules and when they return to school it is even more difficult to maintain good behaviour.

How about expulsion - this is extremely damaging to a young person. Throwing the. Out of the education system labels them as so bad an uneducatable that they beleive they are bad and uneducatable. This is often a one way ticket to underachievement in life, unemployment, violence, crime and prison.

When a child is kicked out of school they are more often then not destined to become a burden on society, which our teachers may not have to suffer with, but our tax payers will forever be paying their food and lodgings.

So then, if not suspension and expulsion, what do we do?

1. A lot of people say that by high school these kids should know various behaviour I ours are wrong. The truth is they don't, and they don't understand why. I was a high IQ students from an educated home ad. I had no idea why the things I did were wrong. These students need clear and specific education, not the assumption that they should know better and should have an adult responsibility for their actions.

2. In school suspension, it is so much more effective that external suspension. And for us suspended students we considered in school suspension a much harsher punishment but it does not inflict fincinal hardship on the family or educational hardship on the student.

3. Positive reinforcement can't be underestimated. People say it doesn't t work but these kids see themselves as bad and not intelligent. Why should they bother to behave? Why should they bother to try? They need to be given the chance to beleive in themselves and to feel like someone believes in them.

4. For very seriously behaviourally disturbed students. Real alternative education. Many expelled students just have no access to any type of alternative education at all and are forced out of the system. Give them a structured and disciplined environment, a chance to achieve as much academically as they good in a school system and a chance to earn their way back into the regular classroom.

5. Remove zero tolerance. These are kids and human beings, they are learning and developing. Being a teen is often about making mistakes and learning from them. If they are condemned forever for the first mistake, we are almost denying their right to be human and to learn.

6. Find so ething thenare good at. Everyone can do something, everyone can achieve. Find a way for them to prepare for a future living that they are good at and enjoy.

The school to prison pipeline

Submitted by Anonymous on 8 November 2014 - 9:22pm.

When are we going to demand that the classroom be an effective place and support the majority of the students who want to learn? Where are their rights in this conversation ? If you cannot behave, then you belong somewhere else, not in the school keeping my child from his education. I have half a mind to sue the district over denying my child the right to an education by keeping these children in the classroom!

I am sure there are a lot of

Submitted by Anonymous on 19 November 2014 - 10:39pm.

I am sure there are a lot of things you could do to support your child's teacher and school to ensure that your child and everyone else's child has the right to a quality education. Perhaps you already do, but volunteering your time in the classroom or organizing a parent support group could be a big help.

School to Prison Pipeline

Submitted by Anonymous on 23 October 2014 - 10:43am.

I am a high school special education teacher and my thoughts on this issue are that our system of discipline is flawed. Children need structure and boundaries and they also need to learn to work. Many of the students who are suspended come from chaotic households and/or may have an emotional disability. When the work is difficult or they are frustrated they act out. Our current form of discipline--suspending--usually sends them to a much more fun and less restrictive environment than school. Additionally, these students have a hard time seeing themselves as actually graduating and becoming successful adults.
With that being the case, it would make sense to have the consequences more restrictive and also more supportive of the student. Disruptive students should be helped to build a work ethic, to find calming strategies that work and most importantly have someone see them as a person of worth who can make something of themselves, while giving them a environment with clear boundaries. This cannot be done in the regular classroom with 32 students.
I don't have all the answers, but I know that in order to help the students being channeled into this "pipeline" we need to look at what is needed to become successful in our society and find ways to implement systems to support that. Programs that provide hands-on vocational training can be amazingly effective for students who struggle with school. Stop the blame game and look for ways to make it better. It is our society's problem and our society needs to stop pointing fingers and find constructive ways to deal with this issue without blaming teachers, students and families. When we blame, it makes us feel good because then "it isn't our problem--it is someone else's fault." Then we can sit back and say "hey, if you just change, then everything would work out." We all need to step up and work together to make a positive change--volunteer--be a good example--make a difference in someone else's life! :)


Submitted by Anonymous on 3 July 2014 - 7:35am.

The majority of my referrals last year were not from either of these categories. They were predominately white males. With that being said the 2 biggest behavior problems were 2 African American Males. They ended up in the juvenile system by the end of school. I tried my best to work with them at the beginning of the school year, but these students came to me with records of violence and drugs. They were about twice my size and I was not risking my welfare or the other students in the class for them. One of them was even stalking one of the other students in the class off the bus and tried to attack him on the street with a baseball bat. To me it doesn't matter what race or disability you are by the time a student hits high school, it is difficult to change their behaviors when you only see them 50 minutes a day. I agree with another poster, it begins at home and I am responsible for educating over 100 students a day. Is there an answer? I don't know. I just know that it begins way before I get them in high school and we cannot be expected to be miracle workers with all of the other responsibilities placed on teachers today.

The causes and the

Submitted by Anonymous on 2 July 2014 - 11:33am.

The causes and the consequences of the school-to-prison pipeline problems are numerous, but few solutions have been put in place to prevent the problem. Our current approach of treating the problem after it has emerged has done nothing to offset the problem or the consequences. Perhaps, this problem can be handled more effectively in the early grade levels (K-3) through intense work with parents and teachers. The same goes for the literacy epidemic (about 30% of students are reading at grade level) that is present in our nation. Without intense work in the early academic years to develop a home culture where learning and teachers are valued, then we will continue to have disciplinary, bullying, anger management, and other problems. I am also convinced that another root of the problems teachers are facing is related to the changing demographic profile of the students they teach. In many cases, the classrooms are very diverse and in some schools, student of color make up over 80% of the student population. Unfortunately, this is not the case for the teachers who continue to be mostly White females who might not be completely comfortable teaching students of color.

"School to prison pipeline begins in the classroom"

Submitted by Anonymous on 15 June 2014 - 7:17am.

The situation begins in the home of the disruptive children, not in the classroom.

Educating parents on positive reinforcement methods is as important as educating the teachers--perhaps even more so. Parents need to support, not blame teachers when their offspring disrupts a class on a regular basis. Consider: the other children in the class also have a right to an education, a right that is violated when there is constant disruption that calls the teacher away from teaching and toward focusiing on the disruptive child. In my experience as a teacher in northeast U.S. Catholic schools, teachers (and most students) are trying their best to offer (and receive) a solid education. They are being undermined by irresponsible parents and educational leadership who find an easy scapegoat in the teacher. Principals also need to support the teacher -- perhaps by offering ongoing training in positiive reinforcement methods as well as opporunities for guidance in specific situations, and ultimately offering specfic help for the student and his or her family.
-- Anne Andersson

What is the correlation for

Submitted by Anonymous on 6 February 2014 - 5:43pm.

What is the correlation for unwed mothers, poverty level, and parent education with the disproportionality?

You need more minority teachers in America schools!

Submitted by Anonymous on 7 April 2014 - 4:04pm.

Most minority teachers understand the children from these types of families. Most teachers that are being hired are not minorities. Many teachers being hired are white females, with a lack of understanding of a diverse culture. Therefore, America has created a bias education in America or a pipeline to prison for minority children, mostly boys. Minority teachers can tap into the reason children who are not supported at home, can find the support at school. I know this is true, because I have spent 26 years doing positive things to keep minority children on the right track.

Thank you, it's so very true

Submitted by Anonymous on 13 July 2014 - 2:54am.

Thank you, it's so very true that white teachers cannot understand the black culture nor the psychological effects that racism, white supremacy has affected the lives of our youth and adults alike.

Thank you now step up to the plate.

Submitted by Anonymous on 17 August 2014 - 1:36am.

It is with a sad and heavy heart that I agree with your statement. Even sadder though, is the lack of appearant minority interest in changing that truth and moreso in advocating for minority youth by working in education, volunteering where possible and being role models for youth with underrepresentation in professional fields.

Great job

Submitted by Anonymous on 6 May 2014 - 7:33pm.


You know, an educator cannot

Submitted by Anonymous on 5 February 2014 - 7:02pm.

You know, an educator cannot be more of a sympathetic person that you are asking them to be. When an educator is teaching a class and the same student consistently disrupts the class on a daily basis, what is the educator to do? Is the educator supposed to sit and positively request a disruptive student be more polite and behave so he or she can continue to provide instruction? Are they supposed to ignore the behavior and let the disruptive student continue? Is the educator supposed to yell the entire period to attempt to educate the STUDENTS or is it the responsibility of the educator to remove the distraction so the other students that are willing to learn can do so? It has been my experience that if a student is not willing to learn and is being disruptive to the entire class, that it is better and more respectful to the non-disruptive students to remove the distraction. If your data shows that the majority of students removed from class or schools are African American or Latino, then maybe that should tell you about the parents of those children. If those children have no respect for being educated or even a desire to be educated, there is not much any educator can do during a school day to convince them.

I personally think those students that are consistently disruptive require a learning setting that is tailored to their specific slant meaning smaller classes with MUCH more hands on learning. They need to be in a setting where they can relax, they can openly talk, eat, use a partner to complete assignments, understand the rules and learn from others that have either gone before them or have life experiences they can benefit from. But then again, there are some people that just cannot learn from others experiences and will remain defiant until they themselves EXPERIENCE the downfall.

look at yourself

Submitted by Anonymous on 11 June 2014 - 1:48am.

We educators do not work with parents in the classroom. The young people in our classroom are our responsibility no matter what parents had them first. I would say the solution to problems with disruptive students is to ask yourself how you handle "bad" behavior on Day 1. That will set the tone for the entire year. Are you taking a fair and consistence approach when children of color exhibit behaviors that you think are impolite or disrespectful? Maybe it would be of value to take a step back and ask yourself what those words even mean to you. And if those definitions are general or specific to your culture and your upbringing and if that's so, maybe how you can widen your definition. From the tone of your reply it seems you are quite frustrated and ready to put students into "behavior boxes" upon first sight without really knowing who they are. And if you build those boxes they will come and act out just as you expected because there will be no respect. This kind of thing that students do is mysterious but remember they are experts at it; by the time they are 18 they've had 13 years of experience of how they will behavior for their open minded supportive teachers and how they will treat those that are the opposite. Kids have a sixth sense!

So just as this article is saying, to remove young people from the school setting is to fuel the pipeline. You and I know there aren't enough resources to create small and specific learning environments for disruptive kids (except in prions or detention centers). I encourage you to go deeper, look inward, and see if you can find a way to 1. believe all students WANT to learn and CAN and 2. believe that YOU have the power to create a non-disruptive learning environment by setting clear expectations and being patient with your students and yourself. It's not an easy job but it's a rewarding one for sure! Good luck!

what to do then?

Submitted by Anonymous on 13 January 2015 - 9:25pm.

The school I am at is predominately white rural town. My minority students are my best students behaviorally and work their tails off. I recently had an experience with one of my students who was pegged as a behavior problem who is a white student. The first day I tried to start building a relationship with this student by giving positive remarks about his behavior. This seemed to encourage him to act out and make fun of doing good. I asked calmly and politely (after ignoring the first few comments) if he could stay quiet while I was going over class rules and such. He then decided to say F*** that. I then asked him in the same manner to go into the hall and calm down, but instead he just left school. Even after all that I tried my best to understand him and be positive, even with his constant disruptions and misbehavior. And yes I had been in contact with parents from the beginning.

Then yesterday happened. I had to step in to another situation where a teacher (a female) was talking to him about interrupting a class by opening and slamming her door. She was also very calm and trying to use this as a teaching moment but he threatened her and thats when I stepped in getting him to focus on me instead. I was met with a physical confrontation with me literally dodging a few punches (and taking one or two). But as a "good teacher of the system" I didnt lay a hand on him.

He also comes from a good home and even with one parent being a teacher in the district. But even with all the positive attention, and redirects, and personal time spent trying to help him in school I was just seen as a walking mat in the end. He stated this to friends after the incident saying "he's not going to do anything. Im too big for him to stop me".

So what to do then? Should I have protected myself and put him in his place by knocking the crap out of him? press charges after the fact? I mean come on when do we as teachers get kids off the teet and show them that life has real life consequences. Because there were plenty of times before then that if he had physical and or legal repercussions for lesser incidents I believe that either he changes or doesnt and we are still at square one with the student in charge.

So true no blaming but

Submitted by Anonymous on 28 November 2014 - 9:28am.

So true no blaming but accountability.

I Don't Know the Answer

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 January 2014 - 3:07pm.

I've been working with at-risk kids my whole career (twenty-six years now) and I have no answer. I do my best to love these kids, but man, the life is being sucked out of me as we speak. With having to implement Common Core and dealing with some very immature boys (twenty-two boys in one of my classes of thirty-five English students), they wipe me out in the fifty-five minutes I have them. And now we're not allowed to send them to our on-campus suspension room, because that now counts as an all-day suspension, even if it's only one period during their day. I feel like teachers' hands are being tied and I have no recourse when there's misbehavior--I move seats, I have private conferences with the student, I call parents--there's nothing else left to me because we now get dinged for writing referrals to the students' administrators for disciplinary action. Talking to parents does little. They have little control over their children; that helps make these kids "at-risk." I understand these kids come from chaotic homes; I came from one of those. But at some point, my high school juniors and seniors need to become responsible for their behavior and actions; otherwise, they will go out into a world that will not tolerate misbehavior in adults or make allowances for illegal behaviors because of what we allow our students to get away with now. Believe me, I am not condoning carting off children to prison for misbehaving in class, but misconduct should not be allowed in our classrooms, either. We're doing our kids a disservice if we teach them they can get away with practically anything.

Fairness in the classroom/Educational System

Submitted by Anonymous on 17 July 2014 - 11:48pm.

"I do my best to love these kids." Who are "these kids?" Are they ours?
You did however claim them at the end when you used "We're doing our kids..."

First, we must want for other children the same thing we want for ours.
You really do not know what "misconduct" is. Some children are allowed to use profane language and it's stated, "They are just venting." When another child does it, you say, "They are grossly disrespectful and do not wish to learn anything." It is the same psychologically, some children need "medical attention" for their continuous misbehavior and others need to "go to jail." Let's call it what it is. That's why we must get people in classrooms who know how and why about children. We have to relate before we can do anything with children. We have to love them, want to protect them, then educate them. Trust is first earned, then we can teach. Some teachers have no trouble out of the same child that reeks havoc in another teachers room. Some teachers do not have any disciplinary skills or procedures with their own children, but try to come and employ the harshest rules on other children. A minor infraction for some children will get them life...for other children will get them a slap on the wrist. It is time to get it right!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Diverting the Pipeline Happens in Shifts

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 January 2014 - 5:15am.

I noticed in the article "Diverting the Pipeline Happens in Shifts" the author recommends to set the expectation in the classroom that hurtful words will not be tolerated. I agree, but by not tolerating the hurtful words, by definition, students are going to have be redirected and some will have to receive a consequence. I work at a school where some students will not alter their behavior when verbally redirected and at some point when positive based discipline and redirection fail an actual consequence is needed and if lesser consequences fail then a referral to administration or being kicked out of class may be necessary. For some of my students it takes a severe consequence before their actions change and for others no consequence including the threat of being permanently expelled from school is significant enough to alter their behavior.

The Pipeline

Submitted by Anonymous on 18 June 2014 - 2:35am.

I am a High School Sports Coach on the West Coast. This is the first I have heard of your situation. Are the kids really this out of control? If so, then you have a culture problem. No teacher can handle this alone. Neither will a standard curriculum model.

If there is no respect for self, then you truly do have a breeding ground for future felons. In sports, we inspire teammates to work together, to discover their faults, their weaknesses, not to tear each other down, but to have each other's back when it comes time to compete against other teams.

If there is no respect for laws or rules then you have anarchy. Cheaters prosper all the time. I personally struggle with this one. I don't cheat mind you, but I see people cheat all around me. My leaders cheat, then lie about it. Or maybe they don't lie about it. I personally can't live with myself if I cheat. It bruises my soul and the pain is unbearable.

Actions have consequences. Or do they? What say you Kobe Bryant?
Daily, not weekly, I get a news story about someone who got away with something sneaky, immoral, illegal, or constitutionally questionable.

"We are a nation not lacking in laws, but in enforcement of said laws"
George W. Bush

So, is the pipeline really the issue? Or is it a generation of young Americans flooded with the message that you can do what you want. Break that law. Mouth off. Cheat. Lie. Steal. Or Worse.

So someone passed a tough love law and you're getting carted off to jail but wait............ looks like you're going to get away with it after all. More paper tiger policy thanks to some bleeding heart.

For the really, really tough minded kids, we're going to have to send them
to a tough minded school. Perhaps a military model. Perhaps a rehabilitation model. Mix in some psychotherapy, some pharmacology, exercise, diet, exposure to different environments, farm, mountain, beach, lake, wood working, auto shop, you get the idea.

Have people much smart than myself analyze the student and design curriculum to develop said student into fully functioning member of society.

Let's also teach manners, etiquette, how to be polite and well behaved.
It's time we got back to this. It has been missing for too long.

Discover More

Submitted by Anonymous on 23 December 2013 - 8:07am.

Where is the fairness for the students who want to learn and are constantly interupted by behaviors in the classroom. Too much blame is placed on schools which are only a reflection of the larger society.


Submitted by Anonymous on 22 December 2013 - 4:17am.

Many of them confide in me that they come from not only poverty stricken homes but also abusive, single-parent, uncaring, or crowded households. They start school trying to do their best but without anyone supporting them they don't know how. I am fortunate that my parents always push me to do better but not every kid has that.


Submitted by Anonymous on 12 October 2013 - 12:24pm.

Social Emotional Learning is the essential piece to this very complex issue. All educators need to be trained to teach and model effective emotional intelligence. EQ. Check out

From A Students Perspective

Submitted by Anonymous on 20 September 2013 - 2:45pm.

I am a senior high school student in a public school system. I am neither Dark skinned nor Latino but I do understand the truth of the school to prison pipline. In my city's public school system I watch as my freinds and clasmates struggle to do better. They start to adjust to what is expected of them because they feel hopeless without the support and trust of the adults around them.

Some of my classmates have been problem children since grade school because there was no one there to help them strive for more. Many of them confide in me that they come from not only poverty stricken homes but also abusive, single-parent, uncaring, or crowded households. They start school trying to do their best but without anyone supporting them they don't know how. I am fortunate that my parents always push me to do better but not every kid has that.

My current High School has gained new policies within the start of this school year that has made the atmospere more like a prison. The policies were put in place by Central Office not the school itself. There was never a history of violence yet they decide to add more security because people who have never even stepped into the school think we are soon-to-be criminals. Now each day I must walk through a metal detector while having my personal items checked. Before these policies the school was one of the best in the district. I always felt content to go to school, my teachers encouraged me to try, and I felt safe, nothing like when I was in Middle School, but now that might not continue. The new security puts students more on edge and I feel like they might do somthing they will regret. What happen to "give trust to earn it", my school has never done anything to lose the trust so why can't the Board trust the students. Without trust the students will not respect the teachers.

I am afraid of what will happen if the comfortable atmospere my school once had dissapears. I love my school but now its starting to feel suffocating. I don't want to see it change for the worse because of this so-called "extra safety". My teachers are trying to help but they have their own problems due to the loss of their union. I don't know what to do but I hope this strange system will stop before the students, especially the freshman, start to adust to criminal treatment.


Submitted by Anonymous on 17 July 2014 - 11:54pm.

This student has said it like it is. When you put metal detectors in schools you are saying these criminals need to be checked. Why aren't the metal detectors in all schools? We know why. Let the children be comfortable. The schools where the metal detectors are ...

You Must Organize!

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 January 2014 - 2:39pm.

Please, please, please, you must begin gathering your classmates and parents to get the word out about how your school has changed for the worst. Go speak at the next Board of Education meeting and tell your local press (print and TV) what you are doing, which is fighting to take your school back. Your teachers (I am a teacher) have no power to do this, especially without a union (they could easily lose their jobs), so you must take the leadership here. These Board of Ed. people don't know what it's like at your school, so you must tell them and all the better if you do it with lots of witnesses looking on. Nothing will change unless you take action, so I encourage you to do it. I think they will listen to you more than they would listen to teachers, so please fight for your school!

Thank you for sharing.

Submitted by Anonymous on 12 October 2013 - 11:16am.

Thank you for sharing. Teachers are listening!

I felt sad to know that

Submitted by Anonymous on 20 September 2013 - 1:10am.

I felt sad to know that police routinely arrest and transport youths to a juvenile detention center for minor classroom misbehaviors. Education system is degraded and needs a revolution. We create workers for the system with this setup. Nothing else.

California Juvenile Hall Educator

Submitted by Anonymous on 5 June 2013 - 12:19am.

Wow, was one of the first words that came to my mind as I read this article. I am a juvenile hall educator for girls. Currently, I have 30 girls ranging from 13-18 yrs old. One of my biggest jobs is behavior issues. Something that most these girls share, besides the obvious, is lack of responsibility. If we let kids misbehave, blame others, including bad parents, for their situation then we might as well pack it in and give up. We are giving these kids a crutch to make poor decisions and not giving them the responsibility they need to make good ones. Many kids grow up in, let's just say it, "sucky" conditions yet they still stay out of trouble and make better choices for themselves. I am one of them. I grew up in an abusive home both sexually and physically. My mom was so worried about my step father going to jail or my grandfather (yes two male role models in my life) not being able to make it in jail that I was left to handle it on my own. Feeling depressed, responsible for the situation, alone and betrayed. I struggled for many years yet here I am a teacher, mother, wife and responsible citizen. I am far from perfect and my past is probably what drives me to work with these type of kids but my point is we all have choices to make and kids locked up are removed from their poor choices, taught new stratgies, and at least in my classroom told they can succeed and can be more then their situation. We need to get these kids, and parents, to take responsibility for who they are. The situation may be a reason but is not the excuse!

California Juvenal Hall Educator

Submitted by Anonymous on 18 December 2013 - 5:58pm.

I fear for the Children under your charge. Obviously you tried to solve major abuse problems on your own. I think you failed. Your approach seem to be more about you than about the children in your charge. What is a 13 year old being "dumped" into a group with 18 year olds? These children have no control and yet you expect them to "take responsibility". This is up to date with with your 1800's approach to child rearing and education.

Ronald M. Scanlon

California Juvenile Hall Educator

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 January 2014 - 5:33am.

Ronald, I take it that you are not familiar with how the system works or how students with behavior issues are treated on a regular basis. In my district there is one alternative school where students ranging from 6 years old to 19 years old attend. They all ride the same bus and eat in the same cafeteria. This is outrageous but it is option the school system was willing to fund. What is your basis for saying these children have no control? At what point do you feel a person has control? If not by 16, when most states allow them to drive, then when do they have control? If not by 18, when they can fight and die in our armed forces, when? Your comment about the previous person's reply failing to solve major abuse problems on her own reveals your depth of compassion for other people.

That's wonderful that you

Submitted by Anonymous on 12 October 2013 - 12:02pm.

That's wonderful that you were able to overcome your horrible situation, and go on to be a responsible adult. Some of us have the inner strength to do that. Unfortunately, not all do. Some need more help than others. They need to know that people DO care about them, are trustworthy, and are there to support and encourage them. I'm glad that you are doing that in your classroom. Many young people have no adult that they feel they can trust. When they act up in class - even a minor infraction - off to jail they go. No wonder they don't trust anyone! These kids need to know that they are indeed worthwhile human beings, who deserve better, and to be shown how that works. They need help in taking responsibility for who they are. They can't do that until they know they are worth it. Thanks for your work.

Very very sad. Behaviour

Submitted by jacek on 1 September 2013 - 6:26am.

Very very sad. Behaviour issues is one of my biggest problems as well, so at least there are 2 of us right?? :) Anyway, thanks for your inspirational comment, it really made me feel a little better somehow. Have an amazing day and best of luck

This is a very sad

Submitted by Anonymous on 24 July 2013 - 6:30am.

This is a very sad phenomenon. It is the first time I have heard of such term but I am aware of such incidence. This is especially true to those falling below the poverty line and it is that reason that pushes them.

What's the real solution?

Submitted by Anonymous on 9 February 2013 - 10:02pm.

I'm in a DAEP and would like to share the 'other side of the coin'. Most of our student's 'parents' have totally thrown their children away. They come from disfunctional situations and many years ago, CPS would have had authority and cause to remove them from the home. Not today. They are abused and/or exposed to situations that many of us, including myself, would never have dreamed people would do to their children. 99% of our students are in single-family settings, and many of those are being raised by a grandparent. A few of their parents, one or both, are incarcerated but I don't see any mention of the cycle repeating itself in the article. So what is a teacher to do? Expose the other 27 students to continual disruptions, language, disrespect and out-right defiance that these students thrive on? Many of them do this because they are so un-educated, due to their unchecked behavior in early years, that it's better to be thrown out of class then to let everyone know that they have no idea what the teacher is talking about.

Unfortunately, in the case of the SPED students, it's a worse scenario, in my opinion. Mainstreaming, in theory, is an excellent idea. Modifying mainstreaming would benefit the student much more because these students don't traditionally have the social skills nor the behavioral capability to compete in the classroom on equal footing. Although some are given many more opportunities to disrupt and disturb the classroom (for example, some of their BIPs or IEDs allow them to say 'profanity words' up to _____ times a day), I must question why in the world we would want the other students continually exposed to this type of behavior and then pass it off by saying, 'Well, he has special needs'. Who in the world benefits by that? And my daughter is special needs to please don't think that I don't see both arguments.

I don't believe zero-tolerance policies feed these trends of arresting students, targeting black or Hispanic students. I do believe that caring parents and administrators have concluded that continued bullying of others, bringing drugs to school for their use or to sell to others and coming to school drunk or high warrant immediate and swift consequences to protect not only the students but staff members, as well. I promise you, at least in my district, the behavior and actions of the student, not the color of their skin or heredity, is the only factor that determines the consequence.

Last comment: after the last school shooting, every single district in the nation, I hope, looked at their policies for keeping our students and staff safe, or at least doing all they could to slow down/deter that type of horrific action. Officers on campuses, again I'm speaking of our district, are not there to discipline the students. In fact, staff members are not allowed to call the officer to remove a student or intervene during disruptive behavior. The principal is the only one who has the authority to do that but, just like the patrol car sitting on the side of the road slows down traffic (at least until they pass him/her) the presence of a uniformed officer does make a difference. The officers represent law and authority but they also are very instrumental in making a connection with the students that need positive role models and encouraging them that they have the potential to be more than what they see or live at home. I hear the officers do much more 'counseling' than arresting.
I'm sorry this is so long and I truly wish that wasn't any need for a DAEP setting in any district but we're growing by 11% each year and, since we've started taking 4th graders, those numbers are exploding, too. It's a sad situation, and one that parents have complete control over but they choose not to so we're left to raise their kids the best way we can without compromising the safety and well-being of the students as a whole.

Zero tolerance policies place at risk children at further risk.

Submitted by Anonymous on 10 June 2014 - 1:14pm.

There is an old saying that applies to those who chose denial and intolerance over the acceptance of fact and compassion: "Walk a mile in my shoes." It is easy to criticize those who are at risk and those who are trying to reduce the risk of those who are at risk. It is hard to take the time to really understand why people become at risk and how to respond in a way that does not further exasperate the plight of the at risk.

Until we become a nation that applies birth control to everyone until they demonstrate the propensity and the skills required to be a good parent, (which I hope never happens) we must spend more time and resources during education and socialization of children that teaches both children and their parents what is required and how to be a good parent.

Until we become a nation that ends the social and economic inequity that causes poverty we must all accept responsibility for the results of poverty.

Until we become a nation that ends the production of harmful substances (genetically alter foods, pesticides and other chemicals that impact children's health and behavior in very negative long lasting ways we must also accept responsibility for maladjusted children exposed to our hubris and insatiable lust for profit without responsibility and accountability.

Until we become a nation that places children first, which includes equity in the preparation of every individual for good parenting, affordable housing, accessible high quality food, access to low cost health care and access to quality education we must accept that what we are experiencing today as the price that is paid.

I am weary of adults blaming children for adult neglect. I am weary of adults criminalizing children for behaviors that adults should be focused on transforming. I am weary of the conversion facilities providing education into armed camps. I am weary of school policymakers choosing to mix the mission of law enforcement with the mission of educators. They are not one and the same and they are a copout for a lack of investment in the most precious aspect of humanity's future; our children. Too many of today's children are the product of our society's indifference, intolerance and selfish inclinations that lead to social inequity.

I am a professional human rights advocate and educator. Yes we exist in the USA. And there is a reason why we are growing in number and activism in the USA. We the people, are witnessing the most significant expansion of social inequity since slavery as the nation's demographics shift towards minority-majorities. Those who are intolerant of this shift have chosen to allow at risk children to suffer out of misplaced fear and bigotry. Lets talk about who is disproportionately impacted by Zero Tolerance Policies, Law Enforcement on Campus, Poverty, and Family Dysfunction. The data does not lie. Denial does not make the data go away. Denial means that those who deny the facts are the crux of our inability to solve these problems.

The American Dream is not ours by right. It is ours by the hard work associated with compassion, discernment and right action.

No easy fix

Submitted by Anonymous on 11 February 2013 - 5:56pm.

Anyone who works with high poverty kids knows that the pipeline starts long before these kids enter school. It is unfair to blaim schools for the problems perpetuated by a cycle of poverty that our nation refuses to address. I have been a PBIS, positive discipline trainer and advocate in the public school system for many years and I have to say that this article is extremely one sided. While there are many things that we can do to improve on our responses to these students, it is unrealistic to fail to hold students responsible for their behavior. Teaching students that there are consequences for their actions is a critical component of their education. It is unfair to expect teachers to put up with disrespectful and disruptive behavior that stops other students from learning. I agree that suspensions aren't the answer to changing behavior. We must put interventions in place to help keep them in school. Extremes on both sides of this issue do nothing to help these students. But to pretend that it is as simple as changing a teacher's response to these extremely disruptive and disturbed students is an unfair portrayal of the realities faced in schools daily. It may be politically incorrect to say, but the pipeline starts with poverty and upbringing. It can only be solved by putting support systems in place that address both home and school. It takes a village...

Slowing the Pipeline

Submitted by Anonymous on 2 February 2013 - 11:22am.

I worked as a police officer in a "minority" area for twenty years. I began working in a school district as a police officer. My wife has been a teacher in a "minority" school for almost twenty years. My mother worked in "minority" schools for nearly thirty years. I understand both sides of this story. One one hand, schools are becoming a "pipeline to prison". On the other hand, teachers are being required to become "parents" to the children they teach.

The fact is many minority children come to their school looking for parental guidance and for parental support from their teachers. Yes, parents of these children often relinquish their responsibilities, giving them to those in authority (educators, police officers, etc). We can argue why this happens, and we can place the blame squarely on the parents.

Having said that, this situation provides an awesome opportunity for educators, police officers, and others in authority to make an impact on these students' lives. Often times, these people in authority do not take time to find out why the student is acting out. If the child does not fit into the "norm", or disrupts the class, the educator has them removed, so their class can return to "normal".

I wonder what would happen if schools began to deal with and accept, not only the educational issues of students, but their new role as "parental figures".

School has to change its

Submitted by Anonymous on 18 May 2013 - 1:55am.

School has to change its purpose in the inner city before I can expect you to learn in a classroom you first have to understand school and on a larger scale societal norms. That's just my two cents.

That is a sad reality of life

Submitted by Anonymous on 20 September 2013 - 11:16pm.

That is a sad reality of life but the good thing is that we can actually do something to help change that.

I am an educator and I do see

Submitted by Anonymous on 21 March 2013 - 12:59am.

I am an educator and I do see myself as a parent to the students I teach during the day, and some even call me "momma". I am a parent also. When I send my son to school the adult who is in charge of him is going to have to function as a surrogate parent during the day. Not because my child isn't being parented at home, but simple because that comes with being an educator. Our society has gotten away from the saying "it takes a village to raise a child". In many minority communities this is how things operate or did operate. I don't think you can effectively teach a child without looking at each student and saying that this is someones child and respecting them as such and treating them in the same manner as you would want your child treated. I also believe it is difficult for non-minorities to teach minority students simple due to a lack of cultural understanding/awareness. You simply can not teach something/someone you know nothing about, well you can, but it will be a challenge.


Submitted by Anonymous on 30 January 2013 - 10:12pm.

The article stated that since the 1970's there has been a increase in the number of African American students in comparison to their white counterparts. This is not a surprise considering that the 70's were the honeymoon period for the Civil Rights Era. The abuses that African Americans had suffered and were still suffering was in the forefront of many of the minds of the caregivers of the children attending school during this time. As a result the children of the 70's heard the life experiences of their grandparents and parents. This in itself I'm certain was encouraging and motivational. The push to encourage African American children to excel was more prominent in the 70's In addition children were reminded frequently of the opportunities available to them as a result of hard work in school, and reminded not to squander these opportunities. This continues to be the case in the homes of their white counter parts, but is not the case in a majority of African American homes. I have seen posts on Facebook when school is out for Professional Development of parents complaining that their children do not have school and will have to stay home with them instead of seeing this as an opportunity to teaching; being that they are their children's first teachers. With all of this said, if parents do not support and encourage their children where education is concerned the only person left to do so will be the educator that they are forced out of the door to see each morning. School has to change its purpose in the inner city, because before I can expect you to learn in a classroom you first have to understand school and on a larger scale societal norms. That's just my two cents.

Simply being disruptive

Submitted by Anonymous on 30 January 2013 - 8:52am.

Stop and think about how much educational time is lost while a student is "simply being disruptive". There are likely 30 other students that are pulled away from engaging in learning. Many of the reactions from schools (as far as punishments) are usually the reponse from an outcry of parents who are fed up with their child missing out on an education due to the behavior of a few. A large reason for parents sending their children to parochial, private and charter schools is the fact that those schools don't have to put up with poorly behaved children.
Also, stating that students with emotional disabilities are punished more often...imagine a class of 31 seventh grade students in the midst of a lesson and you have a child pick up a desk and throw it? When the author experiences this (and the reaction from the students and parents that follow) please inform me of how to deal with that situation. I am really at a loss.

Reply to Simply Being Disruptive

Submitted by Anonymous on 12 October 2013 - 1:36pm.

Well said, I have been in education for over 35 years. There have never been answers and solutions for the disruptions of learning that take place everyday which are usually committed by only a few students. We have failed all students and families by not providing a well rounded educational system that engages everyone in exposure to college preparatory, vocational training, daily living skills, and work experience. Common Core Standards and No Child Left Behind acts are doing a disservice to all individuals involved, in assuming all students are preparing for college and university programs. For many students, today's high schools are providing a meaningless experience.

Thank you.

Submitted by Anonymous on 31 January 2013 - 10:58pm.

Thank you.

School-to-Prison Pipeline

Submitted by Anonymous on 30 January 2013 - 8:11am.

Why is there no mention of what parents can do for their children? The child is ultimately the parents' responsibility. When children live in an environment where values and morals are not taught, they are not going to learn how to function in society. The schools are not the problem. Schools are left to deal with the problem of poor parenting. Parents need to take responsibility for their children and teach them right from wrong! I am a mother and a public school teacher - I see these problems every day. I am tired of everyone making public school the scapegoat for societies problems. Until parents start taking responsibility for their children, and teach them morals and values, our society will continue to spiral downward.

Do not generalize public

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 October 2014 - 9:01pm.

Do not generalize public schools and say that those children are poorly behaved. Just because it is a private or chater school doesn't mean that there aren't children who act out, come on now.

While you are right, until we

Submitted by Anonymous on 16 May 2013 - 1:41pm.

While you are right, until we can make parents do the parenting, we just have to do what we can.

Parents are educational stakeholders as well...

Submitted by Anonymous on 2 February 2013 - 12:04am.

Parents are educational stakeholders as well, and an integral part of the solution. If parents do not take some of the responsibility to teach respect for teachers, school and the importance of education, teachers cannot miraculously make this a reality for their students. Certainly, we can do as much as possible, but if we are going to seek "realistic" solutions, we can not ignore the fact that parents have to help and partner with teachers to help students break the cycle of "Pipeline to Prison" issue.

Why no mention of parents?

Submitted by Teaching Tolerance on 31 January 2013 - 1:51pm.

The reason there is no mention of what parents can do for children is that Teaching Tolerance magazine is a magazine for teachers. Although we know that many parents do read our magazine, they are not our main audience. We write primarily for teachers, counselors and administrators in K-12 schools and for other people working in instructional settings with youth. So, our articles are always going to be "here's what you can do as a school-based professional." We do understand and sympathize with the tremendous responsibility society is placing on schools and teachers, and our mission is to help provide research-based strategies that help the people working in schools.