Students of color who have come in contact with the law enforcement and criminal justice system due to their in-school behaviors are more likely to embark on a path to prison; This increasing trend is dubbed “school-to-prison lifeline.”
Statistics Show Punishment Largely Involves Students of Color and with Disability
Severe school punishments, which include suspensions, arrests and referrals to juvenile courts have increased in the past two decades.
People of color make up 67 percent of the prison population, though they only comprise 37 percent of the population in the United States.
Black students in Missouri have 4.5 times more chances of getting suspended compared to white students.
During the school year 2015-2016 In Virginia, black male students with disabilities were 20 times more likely to be suspended than white female students with no disabilities.
What Triggers School-to-Prison Pipeline?
The growing trend of school-to-prison pipeline can be attributed to a lot of factors.
- Zero Tolerance Policies
This is one of the exclusionary disciplinary policies that schools have adapted over the past decades. This policy punishes students for even minor offenses to prevent more serious crimes.
- School Resource Officers (SROs)
More schools have hired School Resource Officers (SROs) to protect students from school violence. SROs, however, often help implement rigorous disciplinary standards. According to the Justice Policy Institute, schools with SROs had five times as many arrests for “disorderly conduct” than those without these officers.
Increasing Suspension Rates Have Negative Impact on Students of Color
The rate of suspension of students has significantly surged in the past years.
In 1973, suspensions were rare at less than 3 percent (Hispanic), about 3 percent (white) and 6 percent (black).
By 2012, the rate jumped to 6 percent (Hispanic) and 15 percent (black). The suspension rate among white students did not grow much at 4 percent, figures from the National Center for Education Statistics show.
Research shows that students who incur one suspension have a greater likelihood of repeating a grade or dropping out of school, and later be in contact with the juvenile probation department.
According to a study in Texas, 31 percent of students who were suspended or expelled repeated their grade, compared to five percent of students who were not.
Restorative Practice Helps Alleviate School-to-prison pipeline
People have come up with several strategies to stem school-to-prison pipeline.
One of these strategies is the “restorative justice approach,” an alternative to current punitive methods.
With the restorative practice, those involved in the incident are brought together to discuss how the incident affected them, the school and community.
This method enables students of color to talk through their problems and make amends, rather than receiving detention or suspension.
While the use of restorative practice is an important step, more still needs to be done to address school-to-prison pipeline.
Melanie Macinas holds a BS degree in Computer Science. She found her passion for writing when she took a content writing position for a BPO company. In 2011, she started her freelancing career as a writer and since then has successfully completed several writing projects for US/UK clients. She now writes news stories for prison loved ones on the Prison Rideshare Network.