Influences on the School to Prison Pipeline
What is the School to Prison Pipeline?
“They never tried to understand why I was acting out..” -Student from Florida
“ You can’t lay a seed on the ground and expect it to grow if you’re not watering it and if you’re not making sure it gets the proper care. I just felt like they kept expecting it but it wasn’t really putting in on it.” -Student from Florida
Issues in the Home
Some teachers can find themselves picking on certain students bringing about aggression and violence into the classroom. With some classroom violence, teachers can be encouraging it without even realizing it. One example is asking students continually a question when there is clearly one right answer. When a teacher responds to a wrong answer by making a comment like “someone wasn’t listening” this only upsets the students and brings about violence.
Detentions, Suspensions, Explusions, and Alternative Schools:
Students end up getting into more trouble because they are left to eventually spend more time at home and outside of the classroom where the problems originated from. From first hand experience, I have seen in school suspensions and detentions become ineffective. One student I met liked them because she could catch up on her homework since her life at home was too distracting. He/she was an incredibly smart student but had issues going on at home that made it really hard to do her school work. As a result, he/she would trouble himself/herself into getting detentions and in school to find some peace. Expulsions put the students back in the home or on the streets. Alternative school usually does the same thing. Students are left for hours every day spending time sitting in boredom at home. As a result the students get in more trouble and get pushed into the pipelines.
Students with learning disabilities suffered by being pushed into the pipeline from not receiving the proper care. These students are often unrecognized or can be triggered into becoming more violent just by misunderstanding them and not meeting their needs. Students with learning disabilities make up 85% of the students in the pipeline. Only 37% have received special education in the school leaving 48% of students unidentified with a disability while they were in school and uneligible for the special education they need.
If a student is constantly being picked on, a student might get to a point where he/she begins to lose it. Some students that are being bullied can be accused of bullying as well. Policies intended to stop bullying actually have triggered certain students into the pipeline.
Race and Ethnicity:
It has been clear from the beginning certain racial backgrounds and ethnic groups are in the pipeline as opposed to others.
Zero Tolerance policies have been on the rise at schools within the past decade. These policies insist that students get reprimanded the second an incident occurs. School officers have been places in school hallways to try to enforce the zero tolerance policies. The school officers can can an increase in student aggression because they might want to be more resilent since no one is taking the time to understand them. Students have also been pushed out of school by going under out of school suspensions or explusion.
In turn, students are left in their homes and typically under no supervision where they can run into trouble from bordemn or if they are truly struggling with something. Despite students performing less violent crimes, there is a rise in the number of suspensions and explusions happening. These policies have proved to be ineffective and don't make schools any more orderly or safe. However, about 90% of schools have this policy in effect in some capacity.
Schools are beginning to turn away from zero tolerance policies and moving into more supportive policies. Only during the past five years has the damages of zero tolerance policies been coming to light.
In a Ted Talk, Debra Postil talks about the issues of the school to prison pipeline and how we can rewrite the pipeline. She has a unique perspective in that she thinks the prosecutors, police, and school all need to come together to dismantle the pipeline.
A lot of research is coming out for new solutions for the school systems. Some are arguing the need for federal intervention to protect the students and prevent more students from being pushed into the pipeline. Some of the solutions involve the following topics:
This is a practice where teachers would have scheduled meetings to talk about students that have been showing some discipline problems and talk about solutions as a team. This is also a time where teachers can reflect and discuss the new policy.
This is a practice where administration shows the research and data to the educators as to why the new policies are being out in place. This also serves as a way to show teachers how to properly discilpine students in a way that matches the supportive policies in place.
This is a practice where teachers look for moments to intervene with students and see why they were acting up or if there is anything the students want to talk about. Occasionally, students just need someone to talk to in order to relieve some tension they are feeling. The teacher can in turn direct them to a counselor or more professional care.
The American Bar Association gathered a task force to look at the trends we see with the school to prison pipeline. This task force released a draft of a comprehensive portfolio in Febrary 2016. This portfolio is one of the first of its kind. It includes legislation, town hall meetings, school discipline reports, school demographics, and societal consequences of the school to prison pipeline. There has been more and more attention on the issue but this is one of the first times all of the influences and consequences have been gathered into one file. the portfolio is incredibly helpful to look at how bad the issue really is. The portfolio and report can be found below.
Some of the things noted the American Bar plans to achieve in hopes of dismantling the pipeline are found below. The detailed report includes some of the first published suggestions for new regulations. The American Bar plans on having meetings and training sessions on how to implement these regulations effectively.
Dismantling the Pipeline
Restorative Practices-Based Education System
This is a displinary system that would help the administration and school get to the heart of why a student is acting out of misbehaving. By counselors and trained professionals working with students, students will have a time to reflect on why they were misbehaving and chose to act the way they did. This "pause" students would be forced to take might eliminate further problems. Counselors would also be able to meet the students psychological needs during the process. A restorative practices-based education system would also prevent certain demongraphics from being pushed into the pipeline.
For more information on a tool kit for this practice, NEA has collaborated individual researchers and professionals to create the following: http://schottfoundation.org/sites/default/files/restorative-practices-gu...
This is a comprehensive guide on how schools should address this topic and what practices they should adapt.
An example of a restorative practice-based education system versus the zero-tolerance education system many schools now have is below.
Building Stronger Communities
From personal experience, I have seen community centers make students reevaluate their lives and set them on a better track. In a community where they are constantly being accused by issues beyond their control (race, gender, etc.), students learn to defend and act quickly in response to others. Some of the community centers work with the students to teach them how to think before they act. In turn, community centers help students from getting in trouble or in further trouble.
Educating the Educators