Thursday, January 24, 2013

Study Confirms "School to Prison Pipeline"

A report by a group of civil rights organizations says that “overly harsh school disciplinary policies” in Mississippi result in 33 of every 1,000 children being arrested or referred to juvenile detention centers, reported the New York Times.

The report comes as lawmakers in many states, including Mississippi, are considering plans to place armed officers or guards in every school, a measure that has gained traction since the shootings in Newtown, Conn. While this report does not focus on that issue specifically, its authors suggest that the presence of more police officers could make a bad problem worse.

 According to the Advancement Project, a Washington-based group, the referrals included second and third graders; and that in yet another, only 4 percent of the law enforcement referrals were for felony-level behavior, the most often cited offense being “disorderly conduct.”

School resource officers were originally brought into school to for crime prevention instruction and safety measure and now have become an essential component of school discipline.  In some places being arrested has taken the place of detention.

“The school-to-prison pipeline is nothing new in Mississippi, and it is certainly not unique to Meridian,” the report says. “In fact, it is a problem that has plagued Mississippi schools statewide for years,” reported the Times. 

n addition to statistics, the report described episodes in which a child was taken home by the police for wearing shoes that violated the dress code, and a school where misbehaving students were handcuffed for infractions as minor as not wearing a belt.

The report also found that, over all, Mississippi imposed out-of-school suspensions at a rate more than one and a half times the national average. In several districts, the rate was more than 9 times the national average, and in one, more than 17 times, reported the Times.

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