Dismantling the 'School-to-Prison Pipeline'


Lawmakers and education officials should limit the role of police officers who are stationed at a growing number of schools, and eliminate zero-tolerance policies that criminalize discipline and contribute to a “school-to-prison pipeline,” recommends a study forthcoming in the Arizona State Law Journal. Other policy recommendations in the study, titled “Dismantling the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Tools for Change,” include scaling back or eliminating metal detectors, drug testing and random searches of students' lockers, as well as suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement.

In 2007, there were approximately 19,000 school resource officers nationwide, compared to fewer than 100 in the late 1970s, writes Jason Nance, associate professor of law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law. The officers, who are employed by law enforcement agencies, have increasingly become a fixture on school grounds as lawmakers and school districts respond to high-profile school shootings and rising juvenile crime rates, But their presence increases the odds students will be arrested for minor offenses, the study says.

According to estimates from the U.S. Department of Education's Civil Rights Data Collection, 247,000 students were referred to law enforcement and 94,000 were arrested on school property or at a school-sponsored event during the 2009-2010 school year. The study found that harsh disciplinary policies disproportionately impacted students of color.

“Perhaps the most important initiative that lawmakers can support and educators can implement to enhance the learning environment and school safety without resorting to extreme disciplinary measures is to improve the strength and quality of classroom activities and the classroom management skills of teachers,” Nance writes.

The study is available HERE.

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