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Lorena Wright
19 March 2016
Comp II
Brian Ray

School to Prison Pipeline in POC Communities

In the American school system, the prison and criminal justice system is being
reflected in school systems by means of punishment and environment. The school
systems are acclimating students of color into a prison like environment through a system
called school-to-prison pipeline. What that system does is that it is an emerging trend that
pushes out a large amount of troubled and at-risk students from their classrooms and into
the juvenile justice system. Strict policies are mainly put into place at POC dominant
public schools. The policies and practices that contribute to this trend can be seen as a
pipeline with many entry points starting with the over placement of cameras, metal
detectors, under-resourced and under-funded K-12 public schools, the over-use of zerotolerance suspensions and expulsions, and even to the point of using on-school police
officers to apprehend at-risk, troubled students. (Kim) The pipeline concept
implies a flow between two seemingly distinct institutions: the school
and prison, as well as the various appendages of the criminal justice
system. (Schept)

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Addressing where and why the school to prison pipeline is put into places is easy
to figure out. Starting with the where, schools that are mainly located in or around people
of color, POC, communities. As for the why, it is so that the school/prison policies were
put into place by the systematically racist criminal justice and judicial system to keep
problematic POC out of society. In doing so, they use the means of preparation in schools
and by locking them up with no type of rehabilitation. These practices and policies make
it exceedingly more difficult for POC students to pursue high education. The only way to
fix the school/prison pipeline is to put in place new policies that better help students in
those settings.
Public schools in and around POC communities are made to run and feel almost
like a total institutional setting. Many of the public schools have an over placement of
cameras throughout their campus. Video surveillance and related zero-tolerance school
discipline policies, in many ways, have diverted school funding from necessary
resources. (Amos) Instead of placing funds into more needed amenities, schools spend
their funding on things keeping the school safer and further enforcing the Zero Tolerance
policy. The overuse of cameras give the school a distorted positive view of school culture
while attempting to enforce good behavior, giving the flawed impression that the student
and faculty are now more safe from harm. (Amos) In reality, the cameras only impose a
detention center-like environment to all students, including those with disabilities needing
special education and community-based instructions. This is further implemented with
the use of police officers on campus.

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It is already well know that police brutality is a major problem that the United
States POC community face. Police brutality is not excluded out of the education system
either. In 2011 2012 academic year alone, 92,000 students were subjected to
unnecessary force and/or arrests (VITALE). Public schools grades K-12 have used
criminalized security measures like police, metal detectors, and random searches to make
the campus safer. Do white-dominant public schools also have to deal with these types of
procedures? The answer is no. These incidents are part of a national trend of
criminalizing young POC students. Prisons total institutional procedures infiltrated POC
public schools (Sussman). White dominated public schools have put forth their funding
for amenities to help at-risk students like counseling and rehabilitation for when they
have gone to juvenile detention facilities. As for POC students, their school puts forth the
funds to criminalize them with the excuse of keeping the school safe. At-risk students are
often police offices forcefully handle them, putting them into handcuffs, and escorted
either to their principal or arrested off-campus, usually charged as an adult. With the
increase reliance on police in POC dominated schools, so did other policies. The first,
and the most implemented is the zero-tolerance discipline policy that
rose to prominence in the early 1990s. It was created due to the
perception that bad behavior and crime in schools, mainly POCdominated, was becoming an increasingly large problem, contrary to
the perception however, crime was actually decreasing (Price).

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A history of how the zero tolerance policy started dates back to
1975 to 1989 when violent crime increased about 80% nationwide.
With that increase, it had a severe impact on schools across the United
States. The policy was first put in place to mandate for the expulsion
for fighting, drugs, and gang-related activity. It wasnt until 1993 that
the zero- tolerance policies had been implemented across the country
only in 1994 for President Bill Clinton to sign the Gun-Free Schools Act
into law, which mandated expulsion for gun offenses. Due to this law,
many students have been increasingly suspended and expelled due to
criminalizing both typical adolescent developmental behaviors as well
as low-level type misdemeanors like acting out in class, truancy,
fighting, and other similar offenses. (Mallett) Law then required
schools, to abide by this new zero tolerance policy in order to receive
further federal funding. (Price). Students could be punished to the
highest and most unnecessary extent due to this law. The law was
implemented to get rid of troubled students and POCs and lock them
away as a way to clean up their schools in hopes that it would have a
good reputation to receive more federal funding. As schools with more
students, especially POC students, and especially in low-income
communities, receive less funding.

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As the years hit the 2000s, the policy began expanding by
adding different behaviors such as smoking, drinking, fighting, and
swearing (Price). These new expanded policies caused a whole
plethora of problems. As mentioned before, white dominated public
school students would face similar zero tolerance policies, with the
exception that they would receive rehabilitation and counseling when
caught for bad behaviors such as smoking, drinking, and fighting. POC
public schools would often face in or out of school suspension or
expulsion. Removing them from time that could be spent on educating
them or reintegrating them back to their school setting, teaching and
helping them stop those bad and harmful behaviors. The zero
tolerance policy is not made to make young POC students or their
schools feel safer, but only to further push them out of education and
into a life of incarceration.
In an academic journal, Schept writes that other scholars,
activists, and journalists who are interested in the same issue also
have consistently identified the tunneling of students from classrooms,
to courtrooms, and then prison cells with no thought of rehabilitation
them back into society causing relapse.

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The only way to truly help students and keep POCs out of prison
is to make them want to learn, engaging them more in school
activities, not treating them as if they are criminals, especially as soon
as they walk on school campus. The whole way school is implemented
should be revised and reconstructed. Cramer, an academic journalist
writes how beneficial it would be to reconstruct the school system.
People of color already have a high statistic in not graduating high
school, let alone college. This number greatly increases when dealing
with a POC in poverty. The statistic increases again if the student has a
disability or is apart of the LGBTQ+ community. By throwing out the
zero tolerance rule, schools can reconstruct a better way to discipline
students while at the same time rehabilitating them back to the
classroom so they not only wont be behind, but also behave better.
POC students wont be treated as criminals but as young adolescents
who in general, breaks rules and defies authority because of the fact
that they are young. Reconstructing Drop-Out Prevention programs.
There are many programs that seek to either prevent at-risk
behavior or that intervene in the hope of reducing such behavior. Many
of these programs target high-risk social behavior, school behavior, or
individual and family characteristics. (Cramer) When schools

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implement new programs for dropout prevention, it does prove to be
successful. Many very successful programs include help that makes the
transition into high school easier and less stressful for students. Other
programs provide rigorous and relevant curriculum in order to help
students with different learning speeds and comprehension. Cramer
does discuss how it is imperative that students, particularly those who
come from groups with disproportionate rates of dropout, have access
to effective, highly motivated, and experienced teachers while either
interacting with other students in a small group or alone. These types
of support systems helps students stay motivated. Not only would
support programs help students not fall into becoming another statistic
of the police system, but also a redistribution of finances given to
schools would help a lot. Poor/low-income schools, especially those
dominated by POC students are given low funds and are almost always
reusing decade old books that are falling apart while covered in graffiti,
mold, and who else knows what. (Feierman)
Students are not at all motivated when in a classroom filled with
old, broken, supplies. Schools lack of funding actually contributes to
adolescents skipping out on class. Truant students who are flushed into
the school to prison system are often very unmotivated to stay in

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school. Often, those students wonder why they are in so much trouble
for skipping class when the quality and the environment is
disheartening, disgusting, old, broken, and worn out. (Barbarin) It is
proven that schools that receive more funding have higher graduation
rates and less dropout rates are those in high-income communities.
Those schools also have a large white student population. Even schools
in a moderately, middle-class income community have lower
graduation rates than those because there are always two factors that
are taken in: first, there being a large POC student population. Second
is there being little funding given to the school. (Cramer).
Schools will not do better until the initiative is take into throw out
the zero tolerance law made. Schools also need to change how it is run
as it is run similarly to prison, almost police state-like in the way
students are treated similarly to prisoners. POC students will not do
better and will continue to fall into the prison pipeline filling up the
already full prisons.

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Amos, P., White, J., & Trader, B. (2015, January). Will Cameras in Classrooms Make
Schools Safer? Retrieved March 19, 2016, from

Barbarin, O. (2010). Halting African American boys' progression from pre-K to prison:
what families, schools, and communities can do!. American Journal Of Orthopsychiatry
(Wiley-Blackwell), 80(1), 81-88 8p. doi:10.1111/j.1939-0025.2010.01009.x

Cramer, E. D., Gonzalez, L., & Pellegrini-Lafont, C. (2014). From classmates to inmates:
An integrated approach to break the school-to-prison pipeline. Equity & Excellence In
Education, 47(4), 461-475. doi:10.1080/10665684.2014.958962

Feierman, J., Kleinman, R. M., Lapp, D., Luse, M. N., Rieser, L., & Schwartz, R. G.
(2013). Stemming the Tide: Promising Legislation to Reduce School Referrals to the
Courts. Family Court Review, 51(3), 409-417. doi:10.1111/fcre.12037

Kim, C. Y., Losen, D. J., & Hewitt, D. (2010). The School-to-prison Pipeline :
Structuring Legal Reform. New York: NYU Press.

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Mallett, C. A. (2016). The school-to-prison pipeline: A critical review of the punitive
paradigm shift. Child & Adolescent Social Work Journal, 33(1), 15-24.

Price, P. (2009). When Is A Police Officer An Officer Of The Law?: The Status Of Police
Officers In Schools. Journal Of Criminal Law & Criminology, 99(2), 541-570.

Schept, J. J., Wall, T. T., & Brisman, A. a. (2015). Building, Staffing, and Insulating: An
Architecture of Criminological Complicity in the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Social
Justice, 41(4), 96-115.

Sussman, A. (2012). Learning in Lockdown: School Police, Race, and the Limits of Law.
UCLA Law Review, 59(3), 788-849.

VITALE, A. S. (2015). Policing Education. Nation, 301(21/22), 4-8.