How to end the school-to-prison pipeline.

The “school-to-prison pipeline,” is a distressing nationwide trend where school-aged children are funneled outof public schools and into the juvenileand criminal justice systems.

At a micro-level, the school-to-prison pipeline is enabled by the over-punishing of certain behaviors.

At a macro-level, the, the school-to-prison pipeline is enabled through policies and practices from the school, to district, state and federal level.

Generally, the zero tolerance and other exclusionary school discipline policies are the driving forces behind the push-out of students from schools to prison.

Way too many students are severely disciplined at disproportionate rates for minor infractions that would ordinarily warrant a trip to the principal’s office.

Unfortunately, most of the students most impacted by this “push out” arespecial education students with learning disabilities, emotional disorders, mental health issues, histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect.Students of color and minorities are also more disproportionately punished over their peers.

For there to be an end to the school-to-prison pipeline, there must be a collective effort to dismantle the pipeline from the point of suspension to the point of youth incarceration.

First, parents need to challenge the practices and policies that seek the over -punishment of students.

There must be a global mind-shift from the way school districts view discipline. Rehabilitative and restorative corrective practices must replace punitive measures.School districts must hire more counsellors to work with students with repetitive patterns of maladaptive behaviors.

School districts must step back from the knee-jerk reactions to hand students over to SROs or law-enforcement. The more we train teachers to handle certain behaviors, the less need for law-enforcement intervention to discipline our students.

School Districts must take their Child-Find responsibilities even more seriously by actively seeking out students who may require and benefitfrom special education services such as mental health services.

When we work to dismantle the School to prison pipeline we open up opportunities to advance the cradle tocollege pathway and end the school-to-prison pipeline.

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