School to Prison Pipeline

Illustration from the Youth Justice Coalition

A significant number of Chicago students are pushed into the path of juvenile and adult prisons as a result of harsh disciplinary policies and high stakes testing.  By harsh disciplinary policies, we mean excessive security procedures and police involvement as well as the overuse of suspensions and expulsion for minor infractions.  These policies feed the “School to Prison Pipeline”, sometimes also called the “Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track”.  Research suggests that students of color, in particular African American students, are disproportionately impacted by these punitive policies.

As  Matt Kelley has written: “Whether or not they realize it, the punishments school officials hand out can literally determine — and derail — the path of a student’s life. Which makes it even more critical that when schools make these decisions, they hand out discipline that’s fair.”

The “School to Prison Pipeline” describes the reality that many young people are being pushed out of school and into the juvenile and adult legal systems because of harsh discipline policies, high stakes testing, and social oppression.

The connections between school disciplinary policies and criminal legal system involvement are both direct and indirect. Schools directly send students into the pipeline through zero tolerance policies that involve the police in minor incidents and often lead to arrests, juvenile detention referrals, and even criminal charges and incarceration. Schools indirectly push students towards the criminal justice system by excluding them from school through suspension, expulsion, discouragement and high stakes testing requirements.

Here is a 2003 news report about zero tolerance policies. The situation has escalated since that time.

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