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School to prison pipeline massachusetts

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Tahlib Owens

on 30 December 2013

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Transcript of School to prison pipeline massachusetts

The School-to-Prison Pipeline:
How do we Fight Educational Inequity in Massachusetts?
Tahlib Owens
ED1 Final Project
What is the school-to-prison
What are the causes?
How does the pipeline operate in
Restorative Justice/Charlestown
Diploma Plus
What can we do to fight the pipeline
in our community?
I. Defining the Pipeline
The ACLU defines the school-to-prison pipeline as "a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. "
II. Why is this happening?
"Violent Youth" Fear Culture
Zero-Tolerance Policies
Testing-Focused Academics/No Child Left Behind
Racially Discriminative Bias/Institutional Racism

"Violent Youth" Fear Culture
For decades there has been a persistent, pervasive idea that urban youth are becoming increasingly violent, regardless of what is actually happening at the moment in the nation.
Myth has roots traceable the Civil Rights Movement; Anti-segregation riots and protests bore a culture of fear in white America. Racial stigmas regarding violence have persisted.
Law Enforcement Act of 1965 strengthened law enforcement in "high-crime areas" although crime rates were lower than they had been since 1910.
Subsequent policies that allow for police presence in schools have followed, including The Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act of 1986, the Safe and Gun Free Schools Act of 1994.
Whether youth violence is actually on the rise or not is debatable, it may just be that over-policing has called greater attention to minor incidents.
Zero Tolerance Policies
Zero Tolerance policies require punishment for any breach of school rules and do not view individual incidents holistically, thereby invalidating extenuating circumstances, ignorance, and accidents.
Hence, while zero tolerance policies regarding drugs and weapons may initially seem reasonable, they wind up causing harm to many innocent students.
For example, students in school districts with stringent zero tolerant policies have been expelled for possessing over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol and Midol under zero tolerance, anti-drug policies.
...More Zero Tolerance Cases:
"Robert was an eleven-year old in fifth grade who, in his rush to get to school on time, put on a dirty pair of pants from the laundry basket. He did not notice that his Boy Skout pocket knife was in one of the pockets until he got to school. He also did not notice that it fell out when he was running in gym class. When the teacher...asked whom it belonged to, Robert volunteered that it was his, only to find himself in police custody minutes later. He was arrested, suspended, and transferred to a disciplinary school."
"Keven was a tenth-grader who was "caught" with a small pair of scissors in his backpack while going through the school's metal detector. He had forgotten to remove it after wrapping Christmas presents at his girlfriend's house the night before. Kevin was arrested, suspended, and transferred to a disciplinary school."
Testing-Focused Academic Environment/nclb
The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was designed to help the government identify “underperforming” schools through rigid standardized testing.
The act holds individual schools accountable for sub-par standardized test scores, withholding federal funding from those who do not meet expectations.
Since schools only report the test scores of full-year students, the act indirectly encourages schools to administer exclusionary discipline to “problem students” and underachievers, essentially pushing them out of schools to cushion test scores and ensure government support.
Because "teaching to the test" stems from this policy, correcting the racial achievement gap is not a priority for schools.
This directly affects non-white students because African American students are overrepresented in special education classes and underrepresented in “gifted” or advanced courses, as they are put into academic "tracks" starting at early childhood.
Due to these circumstances, minority students are more frequently pushed out of schools due to test-based curricula than their white peers.
Racial Bias/Institutional Racism
Research dealing specifically with these questions has revealed that while black students are more likely to be disciplined for minor, "discretionary" rule violations, higher rates of white students are likely to be punished for offenses like gun possession or carrying drugs in school.
Studies show that black students are not necessarily exhibiting higher rates of misbehavior, yet are being punished more frequently and are unfairly singled out in classrooms.
The same studies show that in 2008, black students in North Carolina who committed minor first-time offenses such as cell phone use and public displays of affection were dramatically more likely to be suspended than white first-time offenders
While it is difficult to pinpoint a cause, it is likely that unintentionally biased disciplinary decisions are made against non-white students in schools. Raising consciousness and allowing these statistics to be available may help to alleviate this issue.

III. How does the pipeline operate in massachusetts?
Quick Facts:
Massachusetts schools use out-of-school suspension for children as young as four years of age.
Massachusetts’s schools have the right to deny expelled students the opportunity to receive alternative education.
Between 2007 and 2008, Massachusetts exercised this right of denial in 86% of serious disciplinary cases.
Most common reason for exclusionary discipline is “violence”, which takes a broad range of forms; zero-tolerance policies do not observe unique circumstances of individual "violence" cases.
Suspension rate varies dramatically across districts; districts with the most low-income students exhibit the highest out-of-school suspension rates.
Some schools with the highest out-of-school suspension rates have the lowest in-school suspension rates, meaning that schools are heavily reliant on removal rather than other discipline forms.
IV. Restorative Justice as An Alternative to Zero Tolerance

"Rather than privileging the law, professionals and the state, restorative resolutions engage those who are harmed, wrong doers and their affected communities in search of solutions that promote repair, reconciliation, and the rebuilding of relationships. Restorative justice seeks to build partnerships to reestablish mutual responsibility for constructive responses to wrongdoing within our communities."
-Suffolk University Center for Restorative Justice
Restorative justice takes a holistic stance on managing conflict and violence in schools.
Preferred by proponents because it leads to community building and addresses the specifics of each case, rather than simply removing "delinquent" youth from the school environment and neglecting the circumstances at the root of misbehavior.
Restorative Justice Practices have been employed as both a school-wide model for conflict management and a method to address individual incidents of youth violence. Here are examples of each:
Massachusetts Pipeline Data
The following data is indicative of racial and socioeconomic disparities in school justice:
Restorative Justice at an Individual Level: Janet Connors's Story
Janet Connors is a community activist and Boston-based restorative justice practitioner who has worked extensively to implement restorative justice practices in schools. She began her work in the restorative justice field in 2001, when her nineteen-year-old son was violently murdered by peers. After researching restorative justice practices, she held meetings with her son’s two murderers, their mothers, and other community members who were implicated in the violence. In the meetings, Janet asked her son’s murderers to make amends to her through living honest lives upon release from the criminal justice system. They took vows to remain in narcotics anonymous and alcoholics anonymous and obtain legally recognized jobs. Janet was able to acquire some closure in the situation and the perpetrators were able to acknowledge their wrongdoings and find some emotional healing. This successful utilization of restorative justice practices serves as an example of what can be accomplished on an individual basis.
Restorative Justice at a School-Wide Level:
Charlestown High Diploma Plus
Charlestown High School's Diploma Plus Program has employed a school-wide restorative justice model as an alternative to zero tolerance. The program serves students who have dropped out of school and those facing possible expulsion a chance to graduate in a supportive environment. Through utilizing advisory groups and keeping a social-emotional focus in the curriculum, the students are able to receive help for their individual circumstances while learning how to apply restorative justice ideas to their community. A feature of the Diploma Plus program is its Justice League, a student-run conflict mediation group.The Justice League hears disputes both amongst students and between students and faculty. For example, when a sophomore in the program refused to turn in his cell phone to his teacher after using it in class, the Justice League heard the case and was able to negotiate a deal. Rather than facing suspension, as the student would have in a typical zero-tolerance environment, he was able to stay in school, but was required to turn in his phone for an entire week. This model in which the accused student acknowledges their wrongdoing and is administered an appropriate punishment would drastically change the exclusionary discipline statistics if adopted by all public schools.
Now the we're pipeline experts, what can we do as youth in our communities?
1. Organize! Grassroots campaigns and activists groups have started a movement that's only getting stronger. Join a campaign
or start one of your own. Follow some of these examples:
The success of grassroots organizations and campaigns aimed to bring about change in education policy has proven that there is power in numbers. In 1999, grassroots youth organizations formed a statewide campaign in response to increase in police presence in school facilities and scant academic resources. The campaign, Schools Not Jails, was one of the first to publicize the notion that school conditions were channeling young students of color into federal prisons. Their activism brought pipeline issues into the national consciousness and catalyzed the foundation of countless new organizations that have continued to do highly impactful work on raising awareness of pipeline-related inequities. In 2003, just three years after School Not Jails began mobilizing, a Denver-based grassroots organization called Padres y Jovenes Unidos advocated for limiting the infractions for which students could receive exclusionary discipline and encouraged the adoption of restorative justice practices instead. The group held events to raise awareness, created petitions, and eventually pressured the school district into changing their zero tolerance policies, reducing out-of-school suspensions by 40 percent. Similar organizations such as Youth Force and the Prison Moratorium Project, both based in New York City, as well as Community Asset Development Re-Defining Education (CADRE) in Los Angeles have also found success in their respective school districts, raising awareness and encouraging the implementation of more social emotional, restorative justice-based practices. There are currently over one hundred grassroots campaigns, the majority of which are high school student-run, operating against the pipeline in the United States and seventy five percent of these organizations are less than five years old.
Do your part.
2. Seek restorative justice in your own lives. When you encounter conflict in school, taking a holistic approach can keep you from becoming an imprisoned youth statistic.
Amarau, Carla. "Fact Sheet: How Bad Is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?" PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Bahena, Sofía. Disrupting the School-to-prison Pipeline. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Educational Review, 2012. Print. (e-book version)

Cauchon, Dennis. "Zero Tolerance Policies Lack Flexibility." USA TODAY 13 Apr. 1999: n. pag. USA TODAY. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Dahlberg, Robin L. ARRESTED FUTURES: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts’ Three Largest School Districts (Spring 2012): n. pag. American Civil Liberties Union. Web.

"Dismantaling the School to Prison Pipeline." NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (n.d.): n. pag. NAACP.org. NAACP. Web.

"Jailing American's For Profit: The Rise of the Prison Industrial Complex." The Rutherford Institute. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Leitsinger, Miranda. "Goodbye Zero Tolerance: Program Aims to Cut 'school-to-prison Pipeline'" NBC News. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

New York Civil Liberties Union. CRIMINALIZING THE CLASSROOM: THE OVER-POLICING OF NEW YORK CITY SCHOOLS (2007): n. pag. Http://www.nyclu.org/files/criminalizing_the_classroom_report.pdf. Web.

"No Child Left Behind Catalyzes "School-To-Prison-Pipeline"" Advancementproject.org. Advancement Project, 17 Mar. 2011. Web. 10 Dec. 2013.

Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. (Spring 2010). Act Out, Get Out? Considering the Impact of School

Discipline Practices in Massachusetts. Cambridge, MA: Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy.

"School-To-Prison Pipeline." American Civil Liberties Union. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Dec. 2013.

Thompson, Heather A. "Criminalizing Kids: The Overlooked Reason for Failing Schools." Dissent 58.4 (Fall 2011): 23-27. Print.

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