The intent of this argumentative research paper, is to take a close look at school systems disciplinary policies and the effect they have on students. While most school systems in the nation have adapted the zero tolerance policies, there is major concerns that specific students could be targeted, and introduced in the criminal justice system based on these disciplinary policies. This research paper is intended to focus on the reform of zero tolerance policies, and minimizing the school to prison pipeline. School to Prison Pipeline
The school to prison pipeline, is a term used to describe the alarmingly increasing number of students having contact with the juvenile criminal court systems, because of the implemented zero tolerance policies by the educational institutions. The zero tolerance policies pose as a blanket disciplinary policy, which removes students from their classroom environment due to misbehavior. Students are either placed with in school suspension classes, suspended for three to five days from school, or sent to an alternative school.
Among these form of discipline, school institutes now house police officers to help maintain control of students’ behavior. School administrators, teachers, and faculty are no longer the discipline authority among students. The zero tolerance policies have introduced harsh punishments for many students’ misbehavior, even minor misbehavior that deserves little attention. With the zero tolerance policies not distinguishing between major and minor offenses, could the school institutions ultimately be responsible for students entering the criminal justice system?
The school to prison pipeline is an important issue to me for many reasons. I am pursing and degree in the educational field, and will one day be placed in the classroom setting amongst students. It is important for school institutions to provide, and maintain a safe learning environment for students to grow into educated, functioning adults. I also have children that attend school institutions, and it is important they have the best opportunity possible to obtain an education in a safe, enjoyable environment.
School institutions have not always relied on zero tolerance policies as a means of discipline. Society quickly began to profile teenagers as being a defiant youth. In the book, Double Jeopardy: The Dilemma for Juvenile Justice, written by Christina L. Anderson, magazines, and newspaper editors brand today’s teenagers “the most damaged and disturbed generation the country has ever produced. ” This became especially relevant after the shootings of Columbine High School that occurred on April 20, 1999.
Media hype became centered around this violence occurring on school grounds. Two senior high students attending Columbine High School, the age of eighteen and seventeen, planned and executed an attack on the student body and faculty. The pair injured twenty students and one teacher with gunfire, murdered twelve students and one teacher, then subsequently committed suicide. In the wake of this massacre tragedy, the public responded to the media generated fear and demanded tough policies for violence in schools.
While zero tolerance had been present before this event, it quickly was adapted and familiarized within school institutions. I can relate to this heightened media based fear, as I was a senior in high school the Columbine Highs School shootings occurred. Our school discipline protocol quickly changed, and the zero tolerance policies were enforced among our student body. Dress codes quickly changed and were enforced. Trench coats were an absolute no, and if worn would be an automatic expulsion from school.
I remember the principal calling a student’s mother to come and pick him from school because his hair was spiked and dyed green. This type of non-violent behavior had quickly fallen into the zero tolerance policies, which forced children out of the classroom. While wearing a trench coat, could pose a threat of hiding weapons, having spiked hair caused no harm to anyone. School systems felt it could be a distraction and had to remove students who acted in such behavior from school immediately This form of punishment only leaves the child isolated form other peers, feeling embarrassed and inadequate.
It also takes them out of a learning environment for several days, making it difficult for them to catch up on curriculum once they return to school. Once students fall behind in school, it can be easy to fall behind in grades, which can have a long-term effect on student’s future. Per Anderson, students may take this form of exclusionary discipline to meant that school personnel do not desire their presence or that attendance is not important. I believe suspending students based on their hair color and style, is taking the zero tolerance policies too far in the school institutions as means of discipline.
Is it worth a student falling behind and possibly leading to dropping out of school due to their hairstyle? Other options should be evaluated and considered in instances like this. A visit to the school’s guidance counselor to discuss non-violent offenses, is one way to begin reforming and redirecting students’ behavior that is posing as a disruption. Since school institutions have become so familiarized in implementing zero tolerance policies, principals, teachers, coaches, and family members are no longer the sanctioned disciplinary advisors.
Instead school systems are feeding students into the juvenile justice system by housing police officers in the hallways and courtyards of school institutions. Peter Price describes the constant presence of police officers in schools as a key component of the school to prison pipeline. Students now have police and resource officers greeting them as they enter school, roaming the hallways throughout the day, and guarding them during lunch time. Teachers and principals are no longer monitoring the schools as they once did.
Misconduct is now being stopped or prevented using police force. Many times, students will be searched, restrained, and handcuffed by the police before ever visiting the principal’s office first. This form of police use to discipline results in police having to file an official report, that must be turned in to the juvenile justice system. This quickly introduces students into the juvenile justice system without ever leaving school grounds. Peter Price gives a prime example of such instances in his article, The Status of Police Officers in Schools.
He describes a girl in kindergarten who threw a temper tantrum, which is not unusual for the age of the child. The temper tantrum resulted in the principal calling the police to have them control the situation. Sn officer arrived at the school and threatened to handcuff the young child if she didn’t comply. Only to find a week later the child had another temper tantrum which resulted in four police cars arriving at the school. The police entered the child’s classroom only to find her sitting calm in her chair.
The police officer still pursued handcuffing the little girl and taking her to sit in the back of the squad car for three hours. At age five, this little girl was introduced to the juvenile justice system. Three hours is an extensive long period, for a young five-year-old child to be sitting handcuffed. This is yet another example of the harsh punishments implemented by the laws of the zero tolerance policies. Surely the five-year-old was having anxiety from being away from her parents, possibly for the first time ever.
Which brings me to he next point, of schools being typically being the first-time children are away from their home. Most children enter school at the approximate age of five. For many this is the first time they have been away from parents and guardians. School will initially be one of the first places outside the home, children will learn social, emotional, and physical behaviors. This is vital for school institutions in shaping the future in students for better or worse. As children progress throughout school, this should be a time when teachers can evaluate and recognize arising issues among students.
Often teachers can recognize issues that parents can’t due to the teaching and learning relationship. Teachers are more engaged in specific learning areas of the students that parents may not be. While some students show signs of a learning disability along the learning process in school, they can easily be targeted by teachers for corrective reasons. Teachers are pressured to maintain certain testing and rating scores. When a child is showing signs of a learning disability, it can often be misinterpreted as a behavioral issue.
This places the child into the wrong the correction, which can result in punishment for misbehavior instead of getting aid in the learning disability. These specific children may require special classes in school, extra tutoring on certain subjects, or continued practice of school subjects at home with the support of parents. There is an advocates group for students with disabilities called the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This Act states students with disabilities must have representation appointed to them before being able to be suspended or expelled from school.
Author L. J. Gowdey of Locating a Right to Representation of Students with Disabilities in the ADA, explains how the ADA is a first step in reform of eliminating the school to prison pipeline among students with disabilities. But ultimately pushing them away and not recognizing learning ability needs could lead to continued misbehavior thus resulting in eventually being introduced into the juvenile justice system based on the zero tolerance policies implemented in today’s school systems. Students with learning disabilities are not the only ones seemingly targeted for the school to prison pipeline disciplinary outcome.
Students from low income families and nonwhite students are essentially targeted more for minor offenses than white students. A case study done by J. Wald, author of Defining and Redirecting a School To Prison Pipeline, shows that vast inequalities our school systems are facing. The article discusses how high-poverty and high-minority schools are given fewer resources, less qualifies teachers, and fewer advanced-level courses than white peers. Wald explains the inequality to the outcome of minority students being held back in school and fewer minority students not obtaining a high school diplomas.
Often students who do not have financial means such as the high-poverty students, are not able to purchased supplies needed to complete school work outside of the classroom This can make doing homework difficult and often ending in not completing the work. This ultimately gets the student behind and can even cause them to be punished in school. Teachers will often place students in detention for not completing work, when sometimes the children don’t have support from they essentially need. Maybe sometimes teachers mistakenly overlook this lack of parental support.
I think that is why is it so important to have continued parent-teacher involvement throughout the school year. This will allow more discussion between the teacher, students, and parents to all be working toward the same goal of education the student to the best of their ability and beyond. Because again, if students are getting behind in work or constantly being punished for a learning disability, this can be very discouraging. Students who feel discouraged and inadequate, may turn to disruptive acts and wind being introduced into the prison pipeline.
While there are negative points of the zero tolerance policies represented throughout this argumentative research paper, many are in favor of the zero tolerance policies. School institutions simply cannot tolerate misbehavior by students. It is the school’s responsibility to maintain a safe, and controlled learning environment for everyone within the school institutions. Students truly cannot learn and teachers cannot teach amongst disruption and chaos. This is no controversy. So, to try and achieve this goal, schools have adapted and fiercely implemented the zero tolerance policies.
Schools feel these policies have made them more effective in handing disciplinary issues. It mandates a consistency of discipline for certain offenses. Parents feel the zero tolerance policies ensures the safety of their children while at school. Others feel removing the disruptive students altogether, creates a better learning environment for behaved students. But it is important to remember the zero tolerance polices do not distinguish between major and minor offenses. While school systems feel, this sends larifying message to students, it could be sending the wrong message, ultimately forcing children into the prison pipeline.
In conclusion, a reform to overhaul the disciplinary systems within the school systems is much needed. Students that have been labeled “delinquent” need help in beating the odds to become successful adults. As C. Ogletree discusses article, Total Reform for a Broken System, a program needs to be created that includes family involvement and support to create concrete goals and means for students to achieve them, in aim of becoming successful students throughout each school until graduation.
It is a great goal for school institutions to strive in changing students’ behavior for the better, giving them a fair opportunity in education. Not to single out those of low-income homes, race, or learning disabilities. It should be the goal to get to the heart of misbehavior that is introducing so many students into the juvenile justice system. School institutions need to be place of supportive and structured learning from day one. Students enter school as young children, for the first time away from parents, relying on educators to guide them throughout their day.
School Institutions should look to a positive approach that emphasizes on individual strengths to promote learning. The restorative circles program is having been introduced into school systems as an alternative to the zero tolerance policies. It creates an involvement of communication between all parties in any issue. Whether it be good or bad, it offers support for students to discuss issues and ideas, opening a line of communication between parents, teachers, and students, which will be key a student’s success.