Home > Uncategorized > VOX Post Explaining School-to-Prison Pipeline Misses One Pivotal Event: Columbine

VOX Post Explaining School-to-Prison Pipeline Misses One Pivotal Event: Columbine

Earlier this week VOX published an “Explainer” on the school-to-prison pipeline that offered several good insights into the creation of what the progressive media has called “the school-to-prison” pipeline— a term that has been adopted by the mainstream media and many politicians. The “explainer” identified the following chain of events that led to our current situation where small acts of disobedience in the classroom are magnified into crimes:

  1. Concerns about crime led schools to adopt “zero tolerance” discipline approaches to a host of problems
  2. Schools outsourced discipline to juvenile courts and officers in schools
  3. Black students are more likely to be disciplined than white students
  4. Even when schools unintentionally send students to juvenile justice, increasing discipline increases the likelihood that they will end up in that system
  5. The Education Department is encouraging districts to tighten their discipline  codes
  6. Some districts are already moving away from “tough” discipline systems

What this analysis failed to emphasize was the combined impact of Columbine and other widely publicized school shootings had on the increase in school resource officers… and THAT expansion, in turn, contributed to the “outsourcing” cited in the second step. When schools placed “good guys with guns” in schools to thwart the possibility of “shooters” getting into classrooms, it created the opportunity for those “good guys” to impose criminal sanctions on students for misbehavior that previously would have been handled by disciplinarians. In the late 1970s I worked for six years as a high school disciplinarian and in that capacity broke up fights that could have been deemed assaults if they were witnessed and broken up by police officers. On a handful of occasions I confiscated weapons that were intended to be used to harm another student or instigate a fight and called police to alert them to the fact that there was tension between groups of students who attended the schools. In these instances, youngsters who might have faced criminal charges were not charged, but student safety was not comprised. I know from conversations I had with colleagues that I was not the only administrator who faced these challenges and dealt with them without involving the police or pressing charges.

In that same era if a student brought a gun to school they would have been suspended and charges would have been pressed…. but in that time frame no one would have raised a stink about violating the rights of a gun owner to bring their weapons to school or the rights of a parent to provide their child with an opportunity to have access to those weapons.

We not only need to stop the flow of black children from schools to prisons, we need to provide ALL students with a surveillance free school and a school free from police intervention into school discipline.



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