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