The drive to improve learning and safety in our nation’s public schools has resulted in the widespread adoption of zero-tolerance disciplinary policies. The practice of punishing any school infraction regardless of extenuating circumstances has been particularly detrimental to students of color. Black and Latino students are more likely to be suspended, expelled, and/or referred to law enforcement for nonviolent and/or minor infractions. Students who are removed from school fall behind academically and have an increased risk of being arrested and thrust into the criminal justice system. This reality has moved the Obama administration to urge school officials to abandon overly zealous disciplinary policies. However, the recommendations set forth by the Obama administration are nonbinding and fail to address the root causes of racially discriminatory school discipline practices.
Any meaningful effort to understand and/or disrupt the pattern of pushing students out of schools and funneling them into the criminal justice system must consider the adverse effects of the following three factors: (1) unchecked racial biases among school personnel, (2) inadequately resourced poor performing schools, and (3) the ever-expanding economic inequality in society. Omitting of any of these items from the guidelines and recommendations represents a glaring limitation of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative as a tool for addressing racial disparities in school discipline and the school to prison pipeline.
We aim to show that students of color would benefit from “need-based” educational reforms, a Presidential Administration that directly addresses racial inequality, and economic policies that target the most financially strapped communities.
Spiller, M.J. and Porter, J. (2014), "Bringing an End to the School to Prison Pipeline in the Age of “Post-Racialism”", The Obama Administration and Educational Reform (Advances in Education in Diverse Communities, Vol. 10), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 71-90. https://doi.org/10.1108/S1479-358X20130000010004
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