Since the 1990s, the number of incarcerated people in Washington and other states has greatly increased. Many analysts say that the increase is a direct result of a “war on drugs” and other policies implemented to deter criminal activity. Such policies often include harsh disciplinary measures and a “no tolerance” system in elementary and secondary schools. Analysts have also observed, however, that this appears to have created what many colloquially refer to as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
If you’re the parent of a juvenile or work with kids, you may have noticed that zero tolerance policies in Washington schools often lead to an increase in suspensions and expulsions. Many juvenile advocates say this has collateral consequences, which may include an increase in juvenile crime. Data shows that students who miss more than two weeks of school in one year have a much greater risk of dropping out than classmates who have better attendance records. Studies have long shown an intersection between dropping out of school and getting into legal trouble.
Students in minority groups are most at risk for the school-to-prison pipeline
If your child falls under a category of marginalized groups of students, such as students of color or various ethnicities, the school-to-prison pipeline in your community may affect him or her. Additional factors, such as teen parenthood, substance abuse or low socioeconomic status, also increase the chances that a student will encounter problems within the juvenile justice system during his or her school years.
Statistics show that there appear to be a disproportionate number of suspensions and expulsions among marginalized groups of students, especially those of African American descent.
Does your child’s school practice restorative justice?
To deter juvenile crime, many teen advocates have been promoting restorative justice to reduce suspensions and expulsions, which may have a positive impact on lowering the dropout rate in Washington and other regions, as well. A restorative justice mindset seeks to reveal underlying causes that may place one student at risk for juvenile crime more than another, and to offer resources and alternative disciplinary action to resolve such issues and help all students achieve their full potential in school.
Has your child faced juvenile crime accusations?
If the school-to-prison pipeline has directly affected your family or your child is facing charges for a juvenile crime, you may take comfort in knowing that you are not alone. Many Washington parents can relate to your situation, and there are numerous local resources available to provide your family with much-needed support as you navigate the juvenile justice system.