Back to School Report: Re-engage Students and Close the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The Sentencing Project brings you a guide and outline of how to not engage in traditional forms of discipline and expulsion that has historically lead to feeding the school-to-prison pipeline.

“A new report from The Sentencing Project documents immense opportunities and perilous pitfalls facing the U.S. education system as schools reopen after an unprecedented nationwide disruption to children’s education and social and emotional health. Back to School Action Guide: Re-Engaging Students and Closing the School-to-Prison Pipeline authored by Senior Research Fellow Richard Mendel, highlights the $122 billion infusion of federal pandemic relief that provides educators, advocates, and community leaders with a rare opportunity to close the school-to-prison pipeline and to invest in effective new strategies to keep children in school and on track for success. 

Given the widespread disconnection, learning loss, and trauma that American children have suffered during the pandemic – coupled with punitive practices that have long hindered the education system – 2021-2022 could be a school year of educational tragedy for countless students nationwide. The report points the way to a far more hopeful future for millions of vulnerable school children. Schools have been criminalizing students – especially black and brown students – or suspending them from school for age-typical adolescent behavior, the report finds, despite overwhelming evidence that these harsh responses harm children’s futures and do nothing to ensure safety. 

Specifically, the report urges school systems and their community partners to embrace a two-part reform strategy:

  • An all-out effort in 2021-22 to re-engage students who have fallen behind or become disengaged from school during the pandemic. 
  • A permanent shift to reduce long standing racial and ethnic disparities and support vulnerable student populations, including youth with disabilities, by prioritizing opportunity, not punishment. 

By investing in proven solutions, educators and their community partners can limit contacts with the youth justice system and establish a new normal in our education system that fosters success, promotes equity, and recognizes the realities of adolescent behavior and brain development.

Back-to-School Action Guide: Re-Engaging Students and Closing the School-to-Prison Pipeline is available here and an executive summary here. “

Join us on September 13th as we speak with Ali and Atman Smith of Holistic Life Foundation of disrupting the school-to-prison-pipeline through mindfulness and yoga.