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Dear White Women


May 6, 2020

Have you ever stopped to think about what the phrase, “school to prison pipeline” really means? What about who it affects? Chances are unless an issue affects you or your loved ones personally, it’s not at the top of your priority list of concerns.

Sara and Misasha have been tackling election issues, and this particular one took center stage during the first round at the Democratic Presidential Debates last July. 

If we fix our school system, we have a better chance of fixing the current prison pipeline. Listen in to this heart-wrenching exploration of the link between education and incarceration.

Show Highlights:

  • According to a 2003 report by the Bureau of Justice:
  • 68% of state prison inmates in Colorado did not receive a high school diploma.
  • 41% of inmates in the nation’s state and federal prisons and local jails had dropped out of school.
  • This is the last report filed but these numbers continue to be referenced by the government.
  • Most studies estimate the rate of incarcerated people who have not received a high school diploma at 65% - 74%. For many, prison is replacing higher education.
  • ‘School to prison pipeline’ is “a term that describes how American kids get pushed out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems”, according to a 2015 report by AJ+ and The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization that focuses on the criminal justice system.
  • The ‘push out’ often starts with zero-tolerance policies that result in harsh punishments like out-of-school suspensions.
  • Sara and Misasha discuss the long-term negative impacts that a student experiences upon being suspended.
  • Getting an education reduces the chances of imprisonment and also reduces the chance for repeat offenses.
  • African Americans and Latinos are disproportionately caught up in the criminal justice system. Together, they made up half of the US prisoners in 2017 but represent a combined 32% of the general population.
  • Reducing suspensions must be a key part of disrupting the school to prison pipeline.
  • Research shows that being suspended just once in 9th grade doubles the likelihood that a student will drop out of high school.
  • Many want to blame the schools for the problem, but we’re not giving schools the money, resources, and training to create and enforce policies.
  • Homelife and parent involvement are crucial to addressing student behavior and recidivism.
  • The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in the US Department of Justice report that more than 230,000 children aged 14 and under were arrested in 2017.
  • The disproportionately harsh discipline that black children encounter often begins when children are literally in or just transitioning out of diapers. 
  • Data indicates that preschoolers (ages 2-4) are being expelled from their learning setting at three or four times the rate of children in grades K-12.
  • Black preschoolers are three times more likely to be suspended than their peers.
  • Black children are disproportionately the victims of exclusionary discipline.
  • There is no evidence that black children have worse behavior than their peers.
  • Studies reveal that black children are more often disciplined for subjective behaviors and white children are more likely to be disciplined for objective behaviors.
  • Misasha shares the meaning of ‘consent decree’ and how it applies to the US Department of Justice and communities regarding disparity in school discipline.
  • An astounding 33 states don’t have a minimum age for criminal liability. This makes it legal to prosecute a 5-year old in juvenile court.
  • South Carolina has a minimum age of 6.
  • In another five states, the minimum age is 7.
  • Examples of the outrageous handcuffing and zip-tying of our children.
  • The Trump administration rescinded Obama-era school discipline guidance, misleadingly citing school safety concerns. This effort came after the US Department of Education made clear that civil rights enforcement isn’t a priority.
  • How do we protect more 1st and 2nd graders from being criminalized? Sara shares some ideas about where we need to start.
  • Familiar yourself with your school’s policies on discipline.

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