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Education and Policing: The School to Prison Pipeline

This persuasive essay will examine school discipline policies and their impact on kids. Despite the widespread adoption of zero-tolerance rules, there are serious worries that certain students may be targeted and brought into the criminal justice system based on these disciplinary practices. This paper aims to advocate for changes to a zero-tolerance policy and reduce the number of students who wind up in jail after graduating from high school.

The phrase “school-to-prison pipeline” refers to the rapidly rising number of adolescents who encounter the juvenile justice system due to educational institutions’ zero-tolerance policy. Because of the zero-tolerance regulations, kids are expelled from their classrooms for misbehaving. Students are either transferred to alternate schools or put in school suspension courses for three to five days at a time.

Many schools now have on-site police officers to better monitor student conduct. Students no longer look to school officials, instructors, and staff for guidance on school rules and regulations. The zero-tolerance laws have brought severe sanctions for many kids’ wrongdoing, including minor misbehavior that should be given minimal attention. Could schools be held liable for children who end up in the criminal justice system due to zero-tolerance policies that do not differentiate between minor and severe offenses? For a variety of reasons, the school-to-prison pipeline is a hot-button topic. A secure learning environment is critical for pupils’ development into responsible, well-educated individuals. In addition, children who attend educational institutions should be provided with the most significant available opportunities to learn in a secure and fun setting.

While zero tolerance was in place, schools rapidly adapted and became accustomed to it. As the Columbine High School massacres happened, media-based anxiety increased. Zero-tolerance rules were swiftly implemented in schools throughout the United States. Fast-paced changes in the dress code were implemented. Wearing trench coats was strictly prohibited, and students who did so would be expelled from school. Non-violent conduct like this was swiftly categorized as “zero tolerance,” which resulted in the expulsion of students. While a trench coat might represent a risk of concealing weapons, having spiked hair did not cause any damage to anybody. Students who engaged in such activity were promptly expelled from school since the administration deemed it a distraction. This kind of punishment isolates the youngster from their classmates, making them feel humiliated and incompetent.

A lengthy absence from the classroom makes it difficult for students to keep up with their studies when they return. Students’ futures might be jeopardized if they fall farther and further behind in their studies. As a result of this exclusionary punishment, students may believe that school officials do not value their presence or that attendance is unnecessary. It is a step too far for schools to enforce zero-tolerance rules by suspending pupils based on their hair color and style.

Can we justify a pupil falling behind and perhaps failing out of school because of their hairstyle? In these kinds of situations, it is essential to weigh your alternatives. One option to start changing and redirecting disruptive student conduct is to meet with the school’s guidance counselor and talk about non-violent infractions. Principals, teachers, coaches, and family members are no longer the officially sanctioned disciplinary advisers at schools that have become adept at executing zero-tolerance rules. Instead, the juvenile justice system is being fed to pupils by having police officers stationed in school corridors and courtyards. The school-to-prison pipeline is facilitated by the continual presence of police officers in schools. In addition to being greeted at the door by police officers, students can now expect to be watched over by school resource officers all day long. School officials, such as teachers and administrators, no longer keep an eye on things as they used to.

The police force is increasingly being used to halt or prevent misconduct. In many cases, police officers will search, detain, and arrest pupils before they ever see the principal. Consequently, the police must submit an official report with the juvenile court system to enforce discipline. This allows kids to learn about the juvenile justice system from the comfort of their classrooms.

When a school handed out a letter accusing a Black kid of assaulting two teachers and imitating pointing a pistol at other pupils, it was the beginning of the school-to-prison pipeline chapter for that youngster. A school board member proposed legal action against him after he was suspended. He was only five years old when he got into a fight with a teacher. Empathy, correction, and other less punishing answers were appropriate responses to his developmentally typical outburst. As a black woman with two brown children, Oluo believes that having children of color is more a blessing than a curse. Many educators in the United States fail to educate and discipline kids from underrepresented groups. According to the expression “school to the prison system,” a significant proportion of black and brown children are channeled into the prison industrial complex due to their educational experiences, either directly or indirectly (Oluo, p. 125). One in every three black males and every six Latino men will spend time in jail due to mass incarceration.

Oluo believes that the early phase of this process is characterized by a high degree of suspension and expulsion. At the outset, she describes her reaction when she discovered that her friend’s black child had been expelled from school because he was “too dark.” According to the letter he received, Sagan will be suspended from school as a result of his alleged actions. Upon reading the letter, Oluo was surprised to learn that Sagan was only five years old at the time. When Sagan made an error, no one asked about it or tried to understand him, even though there was a black kid in the class. They, on the other hand, did not only encourage him to cease but harshly punished him for his actions (Oluo, p. 123). When Sagan’s mother expressed her displeasure with the punishment and threatened to sue, the school relented. Sagan’s reputation will be irreparably tarnished as a result of this incident. According to the author, one in every three black males and one in every six Latino men would spend some time in jail throughout their lives. She also points out the worrying rise in the imprisonment rates for women of color in recent years.

Nonwhite and low-income students are more likely than their white counterparts to be disciplined for minor violations. Wald and Losen did a case study, authors of Defining and Redirecting an Educational-to-Prison Pipeline, to demonstrate that huge disparities characterize our educational institutions. In comparison to their white peers, students in low-income and low-minority schools get fewer resources, less trained instructors, and a more significant number of minor advanced-level courses (Wald and Losen, p.9). As Wald points out, black students are more likely to be held back in school and are less likely to graduate from high school, which explains the gap.

High-poverty pupils may not afford the materials they need to finish their schoolwork outside of the classroom. Because of this, it may be tough to get your schoolwork done, and you may even give up on it altogether. As a result, the student falls farther and further behind, and they may even be disciplined at school. Teachers sometimes detain pupils for not completing assignments, even when the youngsters may not have the assistance they need. Instructors may overlook this absence of parental support from time to time.

Parents and teachers must stay engaged throughout the school year. Having more open communication between educators, students, and parents will help everyone work together toward the common goal of educating each kid to their full potential and beyond. Because, once again, children with learning disabilities may get discouraged if they fall behind in their work or are subjected to disciplinary measures regularly. If a student is depressed and unable to cope, they may engage in disruptive behavior and end up in the prison pipeline.

Negative aspects of zero tolerance rules are discussed throughout this essay, yet there are also many proponents. Misbehavior by pupils is just not tolerated in educational institutions. The school must provide a secure and orderly learning environment for all students. Disruption and turmoil impair both student and instructor performance. As a result, schools have adopted and rigorously enforced zero-tolerance rules to meet this objective. According to schools, disciplinary concerns have improved as a result of these new measures. For some crimes, it requires a uniform punishment. As a result of the school’s zero-tolerance policy, parents believe their children will be protected. Many believe that keeping the good kids in the classroom while eliminating the bad promotes a better learning environment. While zero-tolerance policies do not differentiate between severe and minor violations, it is vital to consider them. While school administrations believe this sends a harrowing message to pupils, it might be delivering the incorrect message, leading to youngsters being pushed into the criminal justice system.

In conclusion, schools must undergo a disciplinary system makeover. To succeed as adults, students who have been classified as “delinquent” require assistance. A program that incorporates parental engagement and support is needed to develop specific objectives and ways for kids to achieve success throughout each school year until graduation. Changing students’ behavior and providing them an equal chance to learn is a fantastic objective for schools. Those from low-income families, color, or learning difficulties should not be singled out for special treatment. Getting to the root of student misconduct, which leads to involvement with the juvenile justice system, should be the ultimate purpose of education. Schools must provide a safe and orderly learning environment from the beginning of a student’s tenure. Students begin school as young children, depending on teachers to lead them throughout the day for the first time. To help students learn, educational institutions should take a more positive approach that highlights each student’s unique skills. The restorative circle’s program has been adopted into educational systems as an alternative to the zero-tolerance policy. It facilitates the exchange of information and ideas among all persons involved in a given situation. The ability for kids to openly discuss concerns and ideas with their parents, teachers, and other adults is critical to their long-term success.

Works Cited

Oluo, Ijeoma. “So you want to talk about race. Seal: Chapter 8: What is the School to Prison Pipeline?”, 2019.

Johanna Wald and Daniel Losen, “Defining and Redirecting a School-to-Prison Pipeline,” New Directions for Youth Development 99 (Fall, 2003): 9-14.


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