Building Equalizing Schools Within Inclusive Communities: Strategies That Redirect the School to Prison Pipeline in the Classroom and Beyond

by Linda DeLauri; Susan Eaton

Apr 1, 2010

Exclusionary school discipline, also known as "zero tolerance," was chosen as the subject of this report for three reasons: it offers a window into inequalities in education, criminal justice, and broader social life; social scientists have come to a consensus about its harms and provided clear alternatives; and it illustrates the need for comprehensive knowledge and holistic solutions for complex problems.
  • The "school-to-prison pipeline" is the result of a confluence of ideas, conditions and events, including: "get tough" federal criminal justice policies; high-profile school shootings; mass incarceration and demonizing of youth of color; concentrated poverty and economic instability; and "high stakes" testing environments.
  • More than poor white children, poor black and Latino children are likely to live in racially segregated neighborhoods of concentrated poverty, which may have violence, lead poisoning, unhealthy food choices, asthma, and maternal depression, all of which are linked to poor health and increased likelihood of trouble in school and incarceration.
  • Educators must be sensitive to the neighborhood environments of their students when crafting policies and practices; understanding the source of a child's behavior leads to more effective responses.
  • Research by the American Psychological Association shows that school suspension predicts higher rates of misbehavior in the future and does not make schools safer. School-based policing is growing rapidly, despite the fact that school violence has been on a decline.
  • Strategies should focus on creating positive school climates, providing accessible health care and family support services, and helping families to be allies in their children's education.