According to the ACLU, the school-to-prison pipeline is “a national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into juvenile and criminal justice systems,” (ACLU). Because of school concerns with crime, they have begun to outsource discipline to juvenile courts and in-school officers as well as implementing “zero-tolerance policies.” However, these efforts to control crime have increased suspension and juvenile offense rates and increased education inequalities.
Students with disabilities, those who live below the poverty line, members of the LGBTQ community, students of color, and other minorities are especially vulnerable to this trend. In a 2014 report by the U.S. Department of Education for Civil Rights, they found that students of color are three times more likely to be suspended compared to their white peers, and students with disabilities are twice as likely. A majority of offenses are nonviolent, but include “‘insubordination’ or ‘willful defiance,’ which can just mean a student has challenged the authority of a teacher or school administrator” (Justice Policy Institute). These offenses should not be reason to suspend a student from school. Suspension causes students to fall behind, and a Texas study found that students who have been suspended are more likely to drop out. In addition, these students are also three times more likely to enter the juvenile justice system the following year (ACLU).
Because of this disturbing trend, schools should adopt restorative justice programs and get rid of “zero-tolerance” policies that target minority students. These policies disrupt student education and create an environment where vulnerable students are “pushed out” of school and into the juvenile system. This perpetuates the cycle of inequality in our education systems. By focusing on restorative justice, schools are able to take a more understanding approach to discipline and better foster student growth.