The School-to-Prison Pipeline Must Stop

The Advancement Project's Judith Browne Dianis argues at the Huffington Post that we urgently need commonsense school discipline.

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The Advancement Project's Judith Browne Dianis argues in a piece for the Huffington Post that we urgently need common sense school disciple.

The school-to-prison pipeline -- or, the system of extreme disciplinary practices that push young people out of school and into the criminal justice system -- is often discussed from the angle of isolated incidents.

In April, for example, a six-year-old Georgia girl named Salecia Johnson was arrested, handcuffed and carted away from school in a squad car after throwing a temper tantrum in her kindergarten class. There's also the story of Mississippi high school senior Cedrico Green, who has spent his childhood in and out of juvenile detention for such infractions as wearing the wrong color socks and being a few minutes late for class. But these cases aren't just isolated incidents. Injustices like these happen with alarming regularity across the country.

Coinciding with the widespread rise of zero tolerance discipline policies, as well as growing school security and police forces, data from the U.S Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights shows that more than 3 million students are now suspended each year and over 100,000 expelled. The vast majority of these punishments are for subjective, discretionary offenses such as "disrespect" or "disruption." Of those arrested or referred to law enforcement, more than 70 percent are African-American or Latino.

This pattern is why the U.S. Justice Department stepped in this past October, filing a lawsuit against Meridian, Miss. officials for systematically incarcerating black children. It's why Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) chaired a congressional hearing this week to explore ways to finally end the harmful, unfair and wholly ineffective school-to-prison pipeline.

Read Judith Browne Dianis' entire piece at the Huffington Post.

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