CI: School to Prison Pipeline Under Federal Scrutiny

December 12, 2012 at 7:16 pm by: nancy a heitzeg Category: Anti-Racism, Civil Rights, Corrupt Judiciary, Corrupt Legislature, Criminal Defense, Criminal Injustice Series, Education, Intersectionality, Prison Industrial Complex

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Criminal InJustice is a weekly series devoted to taking action against inequities in the U.S. criminal justice system. Nancy A. Heitzeg, Professor of Sociology and Race/Ethnicity, is the Editor of CI. Criminal Injustice is published every Wednesday at 6 pm.

School to Prison Pipeline Under Federal Scrutiny
by nancy a heitzeg

For more than ten years now, scholars, activists, educators, juvenile justice personnel and parents have been discussing the so-called School to Prison Pipeline All this discussion has not produced meaningful policy changes that result in the lessening of the flow of youth of color from schools into legal systems.

This may change soon. Some recent actions:

  • Department of Justice Sues Meridian Mississippi over School to Prison Pipeline:

The Justice Department is suing state and local officials in Mississippi for allegedly violating the rights of children — especially black and disabled — with routine and unjustified arrests. A federal complaint accuses officers in Meridian, Mississippi, of operating a “school to prison pipeline,” in which youth are consistently arrested after being suspended from school for infractions such as dress code violations or talking back to teachers. It is the first time the Justice Department has used a 1994 federal anti-discrimination law on behalf of youths.

  • Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights on “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline” on Wednesday, December 12:

This will be the first-ever Congressional hearing on the school-to-prison pipeline and it’s intent is to discuss the alarming rate at which young people are being pushed out of the classroom and into the courts for relatively minor, non-violent offenses. According to the press release issued by Senator Durbin’s office, “The hearing will explore the problems with the pipeline as well as successful reforms and new initiatives to help end it.”

  • Closing the School Discipline Gap: Research to Practice, Washington, DC January 2013

Jointly hosted by the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, Education Week, Gallup, and the Equity Project at Indiana University, the conference will highlight new studies by leading national researchers, who will discuss ways to improve school climate through effective alternatives to punitive disciplinary approaches and strategies for eliminating disparities in school discipline based on race, gender, and disability status. The educational and social costs of excessive and disparate disciplinary exclusion have begun to receive attention from a larger national audience. Most notably, the Supportive School Discipline Initiative—launched in 2011 by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder—seeks to bring this issue into the public dialogue and build consensus around solutions. The need to redress excessive discipline has been linked to efforts to improve school attendance, achievement, and graduation rates.

Long over-due.

The costs in dollars and lives is immeasurable,  although the infographics below attempt an estimate.

Estimated costs  – using Philadelphia as a Case Study:

image by jason killinger

And long term consequences, as the line between juvenile and adult legal systems becomes increasingly blurred:

image from Campaign for Youth Justice

Please do what you can to increase the visibility and add pressure for change on this issue.


sorry to be so late


Those are some incredibly sad statistics... 

here's hoping for change... 

Bob Phillips
Bob Phillips

Evening, all. This topic brings to mind a distressing story from the next county north of me, Pinal County, Arizona (yeah,that Arizona, where the Governor's Chief of Staff used to be a lobbyist for CCA). FWIW, about the only indushtry in Pinal (many of us pronounce it penal) County is the numerous state and local prisons located there.

Anyway, a public high school in Casa Grande "locked down", a high school, mind you, not one of the prisons, locked dow for a drug sweep with dogs. What made the incident remarkable was that they used CCA personell and dogs! See

Talk about streamlining the pipeline!


Yay federal scrutiny. Let's hope it's worth it.


Very powerful.  Given today's hearings and lots of DOJ attention to the Mississippi school to prison pipeline, I'm very glad this is finally - as in finally the Ice Age ended – getting attention.  Thank you Nancy - and thanks to Seeta and CMP and to Prison Culture Blog for giving regular attention to these issues.


I've been reading about the subcommittee meeting all day and following some discussion on Twitter. Really glad this is happening.

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg

veen running all day so i have no word as to how the Senate Hearings went --  will update as we know more


Just glad this is finally getting a bigger light shine

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg

 @Bob Phillips wow -- stream-lining indeed.. The goal i believe of all of this bob.. Future "clients" -- more $$$$$


thanks for being here btw


 @KayWhitlock Good to see you too :) And thanks :)


I love doing it - especially right now at this time. It's like THE time to be writing about these issues.


 @nancy a heitzeg Great to see you too! So happy to be able to get over here this time! (Life = busy.)


Hope you've been well!


And the main things I saw about it were just comments that it's happening and that it's unprecedented. I didn't dig too deep to see how productive the end result was to be honest.


 @nancy a heitzeg Same here. Did you see Scalia's comments a couple days ago? These cases are before the Court RIGHT NOW and he's going out and giving speeches comparing gays to murderers. He doesn't seem to care how it looks.


 @nancy a heitzeg I did want to mention: a lot of the discussion I saw came specifically from the LGBT legal organizations. Lots of them have been extremely interested and wanting to get involved in this. Lambda Legal especially was going on about it all day and had several posts. Thought that was really cool to see them so engaged.


And as far as DOMA and Prop 8 go... holy crap. You're telling me haha. That's why I've been so busy you can imagine since I work for a site that is covering these cases. I don't know if I can talk you down haha. I can say I'm more worried about Prop 8 than DOMA. I have no clue or even speculation on what will happen with Prop 8. For all we know they could end up saying they have to dismiss it for lack of legal standing to be in court.


But with DOMA I think they pretty much have to resolve the merits. It has now been struck down in two separate courts of appeals. They can't keep a federal law operable in some circuits and inoperable in others. And if I had to guess I'd say it'll be struck down 5-4 or 6-3 (6th vote would be CJ Roberts who will likely be Chief Justice for 25 years or more and probably doesn't want his legacy in ten years to be that he voted for DOMA. By then it will be common sense to support marriage equality or whatever relationships people enter into.)


I just think the arguments that it's unconstitutional are very easy to explain and obviously unconstitutional. It's hard to say that a law that says "for purposes of federal law only marriage is between a man and a woman" is rationally related to the interest of child bearing or reproduction or morality. How? These couples are still married and still having kids. So I think the Court would look really foolish if they uphold it.


Also keep in mind the case they took was the Windsor case. This is an 83 year old woman who was engaged for 40 years and got married in 2007. Her wife died in 2009 from a debilitating disease after she took care of her for years. Then Windsor was stuck with a $363,000 tax bill simply because of DOMA. I can't even imagine the headlines if they rule against this lady. They would make the Court look really bad.


So it just depends on if they care about that at all or not.


They may not. After all they took up affirmative action and a case on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. They appear to be ready to anger people and strike THOSE down.


So I am torn on what will happen.


(I'll most likely be there in the Court room for oral arguments though!)

nancy a heitzeg
nancy a heitzeg

 @ScottieThomaston have been good -- too bsy also,. Ready for a break soon :)


we will hope that exposure leads to some action!


in other news I am honestly worried about DOMA and SCOTUS -- you can talk me down if you want :)


  1. […] is consistent with a growing national concern over the school to prison pipeline.  The U.S. Department of Education and the Civil Rights […]