‘Zero-Tolerance’ Discipline Puts Thousands of Texas Schoolkids on Pipeline to Prison

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Thousands of Texas schoolchildren—many of them African Americans— are victimized by “zero tolerance” school discipline policies that land them in the criminal justice system, says the Texas Criminal Justice Coalition (TCJC).

In a new report, the TCJC found that the over-reliance on police to impose discipline inside classrooms resulted in 144, 432 students from Pre-Kindergarden to 5th grade receiving in-school suspensions between 2015 and 2016. Nearly 64,000 students received out-of-school suspensions.

“There is no evidence to support the efficacy of these forms of discipline,” the report said.

“Claims that zero tolerance policies are an effective approach to controlling classrooms and helping students become healthy well-adjusted members of society fail to hold up in light of data.”

According to the report, 33 percent of out of school suspensions were applied against black students in 2017-2018, although African Americans make up only 13 percent of the Texas student population.

The disciplinary practices invariably lock the students in a “school to prison pipeline” that condemns them to juvenile detention and then the adult justice system, the TCJC said.

The report said the alternative was to develop restorative justice policies that dealt with unruly youth in “safe, non-court settings” while holding them accountable for their behavior.

Many children come to school already suffering from abuse or other traumatic experiences at home that affects their learning, according to David Feigen, an early education policy associate at Texans Care for Children, who was quoted in the report.

“School districts need to provide support to help them heal, manage their emotions, and improve their behavior, rather than just kicking them out of class.”

Download the full report here.

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