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Warning: Public Schools Are Working Quickly to Send Black Children to Jail

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School to prison pipeline affects Black students more than any other race.


Reported by April V. Taylor

The school to prison pipeline is a widely discussed phenomenon, but few people take a deeper look into the paradigm to understand the root causes.  By definition, the school to prison pipeline is a national trend where more and more children are being funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.  Students of color and those with a history of abuse, neglect, poverty, or learning disabilities are disproportionately targeted for suspension, expulsion, and/or arrest for minor offenses.  Many zero-tolerance policies contribute to these types of punishments being implemented for behavior that in the past would have only warranted a trip to the principal’s office and wind up criminalizing students.  Zero-tolerance policies criminalize behaviors as simple as bringing a pair of nail clippers or scissors to school and have increased suspension rates from 1.7 million in 1974 to 3.1 million in 2000.

NewsOne recently reported on the high number of black boys who, as early as preschool, are suspended for minor infractions.  As Madison Gray states, these suspensions and other punishments “begin the process of funneling them in to a prison system that awaits them and whose talons will forever carve social scars in to their backs, like the welts of so many slavemaster’s whips.”  The U.S. Department of Education reports that 7,500 have been suspended from public preschools with Black children being three times more likely to be suspended than white children.

Statistics published by the ACLU show that despite blacks comprising only 16 percent of the student population in public schools, they account for 42 percent of the suspensions.  This means that black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled from school.  In addition, statistics show that black students also account for 31 percent of school-related arrests.

The effects of over criminalization in the classroom are damaging and unfair.  A statistic that illustrates the impact of these policies is that students who are suspended or expelled for a discretionary violation are almost three times more likely to wind up in the clutches of the juvenile justice system in the year following the violation.  The vast majority of these children never escape the long reach of the criminal justice system and many never graduate from high school.  Not graduating from high school is a major risk factor as 68 percent of all men in state and federal prison do not have a high school diploma.

Requiring schools to take a closer look at these statistics is a must.  Teachers and administrators need to be encouraged to emphasize best practices rather than criminalizing behavior or actions that can be changed through more appropriate means of discipline.  America’s children deserve an educational system that does not force so many of its most vulnerable and marginalized citizens to live their lives under the control of the criminal justice system.



  1. janp

    July 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Oh please. If education is important to you it will be to your child. Don’t matter if you are poor, a single parent or on welfare, whatever. Stop letting schools determine your childs destiny.This is really sad journalism. Shame on you

    • 3d2002

      July 4, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      Thank you @ Janp. I get where you are coming from, standing fully present in your child’s education is the number one priority for anything that cares about their child’s education. Do whatever you have to do to make sure you child knows that you will go to bat for them no matter what!

      • 3d2002

        July 4, 2014 at 4:12 pm

        *anyone that cares*……

  2. JembeQueen

    July 4, 2014 at 4:01 pm

    Anyone wanting to know where this is coming from, it started after emancipation. Newly freed men were locked up for no reason and sold for $2 to $5 a head by the sheriff or judges to businessmen and farmers to replace the slave labor they just lost.

    It’s a continuation of the same thing, school to prison to prison labor for .18 cents an hour… now we don’t have to outsource to 3rd world countries, we ARE a 3rd world country!

    • Sakonya

      July 5, 2014 at 12:22 am

      You sure said it right!

  3. SHarris

    July 4, 2014 at 4:03 pm

    Pat answers like the one above are not based on reality and do nothing to help the children in the clutches of this system. Yes, it would be great to have parents understand the importance of education and pass that on to their children. But that, in itself will not solve this very real issue of institutional racism which leads to the ‘new slavery’ also known as mass incarceration. The school to prison pipeline is very real and as an African American teacher, I work hard to minimize it’s impact every day!

    Here’s another angle– what about those students who don’t have parents that care about education? Is that their fault? Should they not be given every chance to succeed even if they don’t have the best parents? Of course they should! The people in our community that DO care and DO know something about the issue need to take action. An issue that affects so many in our community–that cripples families, which weakens neighborhoods, which leads to the demise of our community–can’t be just dumped back upon the same folks that truly DON’T know better but no blame put on the system that is CLAIMING to educate them!

    • Yahweh BYB Yahweh

      July 5, 2014 at 10:08 am

      Thank You!!! IT IS THE SYSTEM THAT CAUSE ANYONE TO BE UNEDUCATED–SUCH AS THE MONETARY SYSTEM. It is a fact that THE SYSTEM is designed to steal our wealth using paper-for an exchange for goods and services-where is our business industries–burned down because of injustice. Taxes are forever increasing and the cost-of-living is way over our heads. Let us move in the right direction to get to know one another and take charge of our destiny. This can only be achieved by us caring and helping one another.
      Have A Fabulous Day!!!

  4. SHarris

    July 4, 2014 at 4:05 pm

    its* impact

  5. Perplexed

    July 4, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    You can blame schools, the man, the man on the moon BUT, it is the lack of consistent discipline, lack of morals, lack of values, no home training, little or no male role models and sometimes no men or women role models, and not valuing education and I could add at least 20 more issues that contribute to our children, especially boys high rate of incarceration. The more you blame everyone else and don’t look in the mirror the worse our problems get.

    • Sakonya

      July 5, 2014 at 12:28 am

      No, it is not always the fault of the child, his/her upbringing or the parents, but, the criminalization of basic childhood behaviors and a double and different standard of what behaviors are allowed and for whom. If you do not realize that Blacks and whites are treated differently by now, then you are either white,who will never experience this treatment or Black, with your head stuck in a part of your anatomy that I won’t mention here.

  6. Vicke G. Owens

    July 4, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    Thanks for Infro

  7. James Alexander

    July 4, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    What else can you expect when you have babies being born into poverty by teens with no parenting skills? These kids are doomed before they really have a chance but nobody seems to care about that. By the time they’re in grade school (and sometimes even before that) they’re already uncontrollable and these inexperienced teachers do the only thing they know and that’s to suspend them or call the police. The parents of these kids are just as much to blame as the system.

  8. a$million

    July 4, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    Excellent journalism. Just what Thomas Jefferson prescribed for democracy to work. The more we’re made aware of issues in society the more chance the public has to work on them. Obviously this writer cares about America.The myth of the individual is just that – a myth. Nobody has ever accomplished anything alone.

  9. Katyjow

    July 4, 2014 at 8:38 pm

    Please. As a veteran high school teacher, the schools are not the problem here. It is parenting, or lack thereof. Black students (mostly boys, but also girls) are by far the worst behaved, and mostly the ones that I have to have removed from class for disruptive behavior. Many of these students live in two-parent households. The parents should focus less on providing their children with things/bling, and focus more on ensuring that their children are focused on learning and getting a good education.

    Unfortunately, the predominately white schools tolerate unacceptable behavior as many of the black students are athletes, or perhaps in fear of being labeled racist. I personally feel that they are too lenient on the bad actors. A smaller number of black students are well-behaved (good parenting) and do well in academics. This group tends to bond with other races and the black students that are focused on learning, while distancing themselves from those that are not focused.

    If it “takes a village”, then the “village” needs to step up and stop blaming the schools for black student failure. The prison pipeline begins in the home/community.

  10. Demetria

    July 4, 2014 at 9:23 pm

    As an educator, this is article sickens me. There are good and bad in each profession and I can tell you that those of us that are in the trenches daily are trying to make impacts on every student. The teachers like myself that buy school supplies, school clothes, pay for physicals, provide lunch money…….we go unnoticed. And that’s fine because when I do something for one of my students it’s for them not for the accolades. But educators do not deserve to be beaten down at every turn since we don’t go home with our students and cannot control what happens since they can only get what we give them 9 months a year and 8 hours a day.

    • Jeffrey Brown

      July 5, 2014 at 7:05 am


  11. Anthony Allen

    July 4, 2014 at 9:31 pm

    All children dont have parents. Anyone who thinks this article is fictional is more ignorant than their words belie . Our existence in this country has always been beset with danger from that caucasian animal. We must separate and go back to self reliance if we as a people are to survive.

  12. Devon

    July 4, 2014 at 11:59 pm

    Dumb fukkas need to stop breedin kids they can hardly feed and cant teach sheit cause they dont know sheit to teach they cant even teach their bad azz kid manners how the fukk they gonna teach em to stay in school and out of trouble; stop blamin the fukkin white man for everythang; white man wasnt in yall bedroom with a whip telling yall to fukk and have a bunch of b@stid kids yall ain got shit to give em yall cant even afford to move to decent neighborhood with good schools cant give them decent food stop blaming the white man for yalls fukk ups and talk to blk ppl who do sheit right and dont pull the cart befor the fukkin horse and aint broke and and uneducated and dont live in the fukkin slums and got married first then raised their kids. Blk ppl do sheit right; niggas do sheit wrong everytime.

  13. Arneader

    July 5, 2014 at 1:29 am

    For the most part I have been a single parent I DONT BELIEVE THE HYPE I remembering hearing a black mom say she wanted her son to grow up to be successful I began repeating that mantras son is a junior Computer Engineer major in college

  14. steven palmore

    July 5, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    It’s not the schools that are working to send kids to jail,it’s the politicians like Mike Bloomberg of New York and Rahm Emannuel of Chicago that are doing so .Those two politicians are hell bent on trying to get all of the good black teachers out of the school system and planting lying media attacks on teachers unions so that the good black teachers won’t be able to help black kids.The result…. misguided black kids going to prison instead of college

  15. Al-Jalil

    July 6, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    I think the title of this article is too suggestive. What is happening in the schools is unfortunate, and a product of cultural misunderstanding.

    While I agree that there is a lot of work that needs to be done at home (as far as discipline is concerned), I think we need to remember the old saying: “it takes a village to raise a child”. For whatever reason, these days, there are times where the parents are simply not prepared to do what’s best for their child and their upbringing, and this results in a cycle of ignorance and delinquency. This is where the village comes into play, as they have potiential to significantly shape a child’s development. We could go on and on about child development, and brainstorm and great interventions for these children.

    One great area of attack that, after reading this article, I see as valuable would be to change the way we do discipline in our schools. If we want to see a positive change in behaivior, we need to be much more productive with the way we discipline them. Is a suspension more valuable that mandatory, afterschool extended learning time?if we’re deciding to be productive with our discipline, then I would say the answer is no. As a young teen in highschool, this is the way I think we should be thinking. it would be a much more valuable investment of time and money.

    • Dynamite CarBoatPlane

      July 7, 2014 at 4:30 pm

      I agree. I think it has to do with the community, and the culture. This also leads into what African Americans have listened to, (the older generation), and are now listening to (young gen).

      Anyways, I agree that suspensions are not productive. In fact, it is more of a reward for a teen to do whatever he wants, which can be dangerous as that can make it easier for him/her to cause trouble. This is especially so if their parents don’t care too much about what happens to their child. Thank god I had a parent that did care, and who would punish me with the chankla had I gotten even a detention.

      I think a punishment should be something the teen will care about. Saturday detention, isn’t something I’d care about. Half care about maybe, because I’d be very bored and have to be silent, but may have the chance to do silly things with a friend. It’s not that much of a punishment.

      I think having positive things that motivate students to really want them, and negating these things to badly behaved students, can be positive. For example, having PE, sports, and field trips to places that students actually want to go. Having a recreational center for students. These things ALL being taken away (or some of it, or reduced) as punishment may be better than suspension.

      Then if someone says “But we need money!” for those things, well. Then we simply have to cut some other things back, such as state tests and ST preps. Do away with property taxes as well. We need new ways of schools earning money, so that students can grow without simply ‘math and reading’.

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