The “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to situations in schools that result in harsh discipline measures, disengagement, and dropouts that lead, before long, to entanglements with law enforcement and incarceration. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, the pipeline often begins with a lack of adequate resources in underfunded schools, a situation that is exacerbated by high stakes testing. Add on zero-tolerance disciplinary policies that lead to suspension and expulsion even for minor infractions, and kids end up back in home and neighborhood environments where their problems often originated. Under these circumstances, kids fall behind academically, which in turn leads to dropouts. School police units in charge of discipline and school-based arrests mean that kids bypass the principal’s office and head for juvenile detention or an a disciplinary alternative school. And it’s one small step from there to prison. The majority of the students stuck in this pipeline are black or latino.
If you want to learn more about this issue, the Indiana Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is hosting an online panel discussion on January 20, 2016 at 11 am EST. To join, call 888-417-8533 and use conference ID 2138345; or go to https://cc.readytalk.com/r/kwf2s53iu6ux&eom.
The Indiana Advisory Committee will also be holding a day (8 am – 5 pm) of hearings about the school-to-prison pipeline in Indianapolis on February 17, 2016. Those interested in attending can call the Midwest Regional Office of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights at 312-353-8311.