On July 21 the Departments of Justice and Education released an important plan to combat education policies that push students out of school and limit their educational opportunities. While the plan isn’t perfect, it takes a significant step forward in closing the “school-to-prison pipeline,” a set of school policies and practices that wind up funneling students out of school, providing a one-way path to the criminal justice system, and causing them to drop out altogether.
This initiative comes at a critical moment. Around the nation an unparalleled number of children are suspended or expelled as a result of excessive punishment for matters that could be handled by serving in-school detention or calling home.
Overly punitive policies have indubitably contributed to the school-to-prison pipeline. Currently, more than 3 million of America’s students are suspended at least once each year and more than 100,000 are expelled, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights.
In order to effectively ensure all of America’s students have access to a quality education, it is imperative that initiatives such as the Supportive School Discipline Initiative are developed and implemented to combat policies that prevent an education from becoming a reality.
The initiative aims to do four things in order to improve these disparate policies:
- Build effective action by building consensus for action among federal, state, and local education, and justice stakeholders.
- Research and accumulate data on alternative policies and disciplinary practices that work more effectively.
- Ensure policies and practices are in accordance with federal civil rights laws, which is especially important considering the widespread lack of due process rights for students who attempt to re-enroll in school upon release from the justice system.
- Increase awareness of effective policies and practices that prove beneficial for combating the school-to-prison pipeline.
The initiative’s aim to build consensus, build a bank of research on the topic, and foster awareness on effective practices is a step forward in the right direction and will indubitably set us on the right path toward closing the school-to-prison pipeline once and for all.
For more information please see: