School to Prison Pipeline

7 July 2016

The school-to-prison pipeline is a devastating part of reality for all too many students. The pipeline in definition is simply a term representing the tendency for certain students to easily end up in prison during or shortly after schooling. To decrease this tendency, it is important that teachers are aware of the issue and that the community as a whole works to implement policies that actually work, and eliminate the ones that strengthen the pipeline. Looking specifically at the pipeline amongst individuals with disabilities, it is evident that the population of those with disabilities is highly overrepresented within the prison system (Elias, 2013). Part of understanding the pipeline involves understanding the prevalence of minorities in the pipeline, looking at school’s zero tolerance policies and knowing what teachers can do in order to diminish the pipeline. Effects on Minorities – Disability

Minorities, including students with disabilities, are most at risk for becoming part of this pipeline. Students that have learning disabilities or emotional disabilities are often times both in the lower testing category and seen as more difficult to teach, which targets these students by increasing the likelihood that they will get into the pipeline. Students with disabilities that show even remote delinquent behavior are much more at risk to enter detention centers (Kim, C. Y., Losen, D. J., & Hewitt, D, 2010). Instead of staff being encouraged to help students and work to resolve issues they may have that is causing delinquent behavior, (which may simply be a quick fix issue or a matter of needing someone to talk to) schools put them into the prison system (Wald, J. M., & Losen, D. J, 2003).

School to Prison Pipeline Essay Example

Having disabilities often impacts success when not given proper instruction (Ruppar, 2013). When students are not doing well in school, their confidence is low and thus their tolerance of school lowers with it (Ruppar, 2013). These are real issues, and it shows in the statistics. Students with emotional and or behavioral disabilities have a 56% drop out rate, which is the highest drop out rate of any other category of disability. Of those that drop out of school, 75% of them are arrested within three to five years of leaving school (Ruppar, 2013). Overrepresentation is also an issue when it comes to the pipeline. When students are enrolled in special education classes that do not have a disability, or that would benefit more from being involved with inclusion programs, they have a higher chance of drop out and entrance into the pipeline (Togut, 2012). Zero tolerance policies effect all students as well as minorities when it comes to the school to prison pipeline. Zero Tolerance Policy

An idea that at first sounds like a good one, a concept that makes children and their parents feel safe, a term that has life devastating backlash and consequences, is the infamous “Zero-Tolerance Policy”. When the topic is brought up about the school-to-prison pipeline, the majority of articles will also mention this policy and its negative effects on the issue. When the policy gets implemented under the wrong hands, it can have devastating effects. Years ago, misbehavior could be seen as “kids being kids”. Movies often portray kids misbehaving in ways such as food fights. Present day, acts as simple as the latter can result in multiple arrests.

Children as young as fourth grade have been handcuffed and given a criminal record of “misdemeanor conduct,” simply due to throwing a french fry in the lunchroom (Saulny, 2009). With zero tolerance policies involving police in schools, five year old children having temper tantrums have led to being put in handcuffs (Halkett, 2012). Studies show that arrests, even without expulsion, put kids on a fast track to dropping out of school (Lowery, 2013). When children have to pass through metal detectors and then are hovered over by police officers every minute of their school day, kids see police more as “waiting for them to do something wrong” and develop a negative view of law enforcement, rather than seeing them as there for their own protection (Lowery, 2013). Taking control away from teachers and placing it in the hands of law enforcement also reduces the level of respect for teachers and school administrators (Chongmin Na & Denise C. Gottfredson, 2011).

Once students enter the juvenile detention system, chances for them to succeed decline dramatically. Systems tend to be focused on keeping them from worse rather than putting them on the right track to succeed. Simple acts such as school pranks misinterpreted can lead even a straight a student into the prison system, and once they are in the system, it becomes very difficult to get out and stay out. It is even more difficult for students with disabilities that get into the system to get out due to factors such as difficulty learning in school, lack of inclusion, and confidence issues. Students with disabilities are twice as likely to be suspended, and 70% of issues regarding behavior with individuals with disabilities result in physical restraint (Halkett, 2012). Although there have been devastating effects of the zero tolerance policy and school to prison pipeline, educators can prevent them. Teacher Influence

Teachers have a big opportunity to do their part in diminishing the pipeline. Teachers know their students, and have the ability to help them learn and love school (Elias, 2013). Teachers need to care enough about their students and be a good role model so that school becomes a place that they want to be. Most often, school is not seen as an enjoyable place to be to begin with, and when that school environment is paired with difficulty learning, bullying, and lack of integration due to a disability, it becomes a toxic environment. Teachers have the ability to make school an enjoyable place to be. For high school students, graduating needs to be an exciting goal.

When students with disabilities are expected to have a low paying job and low success whether they graduate or not, many students find that there is little ambition to graduate. Teachers have the responsibility of teaching their students that this is not the case, and that graduating is a great and powerful accomplishment. Testing that holds teachers responsible for their students test scores also has effects promoting the school-to-prison pipeline. When test scores are below acceptability, students occasionally get “pushed out”. Teachers can do something about this by advocating to their students that they are not a test score, and being supportive of their students regardless of scoring. An important aspect is that teachers use a positive behavioral approach to discipline (Coggshall, J. G., Osher, D. & Colombi, G., 2013). Through looking at the zero tolerance policy, it is evident that punishment only strengthens the pipeline.

According to recent studies, most teachers are supportive of removing students with behavioral disorders from classrooms, which results in lack of skills and knowledge training on educators end (Coggshall, J. G., Osher, D. & Colombi, G., 2013). A good way for teachers to combat issues in the classroom is to develop a relationship with students that involve respect. When teachers get to know their students, understand their learning level, understand their capabilities, provide engaging and encouraging instruction, push them to have high expectations for themselves, and teach students to respect themselves and peers, there is a lot of potential for a more positive learning involvement that isn’t centered around discipline and hatred of school (Coggshall, J. G., Osher, D. & Colombi, G., 2013). What Can Be Done

There are many alternatives that can be used to prevent the reinforcement of the school to prison pipeline. Regardless of the route taken, the main objective is to make students feel safe without making them feel like perpetrators (Meiners, 2011). One way to avoid students slipping into the prison system is to change discipline policies. Rather than focusing on removing students from classrooms as punishment, schools can work to incorporate in school suspensions or community service as an alternate (Lowery, 2013). Another thing that has become more popular is the idea of youth courts. Youth courts were developed as a way to decrease the amount of youth that end up in the prison system, and allow youth to serve as judges and on juries for judging their own peers. Students that have gotten in trouble with the law are provided a way to learn more about the system and learn personal skills in the process.

When students aren’t connected to their environment, it’s easy to give up and drop out. By being judged by their peers in a setting that is not condescending, it allows youth to feel more in control (Cole, H. A., & Heilig, J., 2011). Altering zero tolerance policies to be less harsh is another alternative to completely eliminating them. In different instances, it has been successful when school systems add clauses that account for more leeway (Lowery, 2013). School districts can assess their rates of student drop out and determine instances with the law every year while implanting different techniques to see what works for their community.

Limiting police intervention to specifically only when acts are classified as crimes also works to limit unnecessary arrests (Halkett, 2012). By working closely with local police departments, schools can work to limit student arrests and the use of handcuffs on school grounds. Training teachers on how to use positive behavioral interventions, and remembering to always explain to students why certain things are being implemented have also had good success rates (Elias, 2013). The school-to-prison pipeline is a devastating occurrence that has the ability to be diminished. With proper training from a teacher standpoint and a general knowledge base of the prevalence of students with disabilities among this system, steps can be taken to reduce the prevalence of the pipeline. Taking small shifts to make this a possibility will result in long lasting and positive results (Elias, 2013). Eventually moving towards bold steps, such as eliminating zero tolerance policies, will be improvements that will help school systems to move forward from this unfortunate occurrence.

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