ZERO TOLERANCE AND THE SCHOOL TO PRISON PIPELINE
Our concern stems from research which shows that zero tolerance policies and disproportionate or inappropriate use of suspensions and expulsions contribute to the trend known as "the school-to-prison pipeline." This pipeline refers to the growing practice of criminalizing, rather than educating, our nation's children, and is one of the most important civil rights challenges facing our nation today.
Zero-tolerance disciplinary policies are often the first step in a child's journey through the pipeline because they impose severe discipline on students without regard to individual circumstances or the long term consequences. Under these policies, children have been expelled for giving Midol to a classmate, bringing household goods (including a kitchen knife) to school to donate to Goodwill, and bringing scissors to class for an art project.
Further, there is no evidence that zero-tolerance policies or overuse of suspensions and expulsions make schools safer or improve student behavior. On the contrary, research suggests that these practices may actually increase the likelihood of later criminal misconduct. . . .
Students of color are disproportionately represented at every stage of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Students with special needs are particularly likely to be pushed out of mainstream schools and into the juvenile justice system, despite the heightened protections afforded to them under law. . .
Students who fit within both of these groups - minority students with disabilities - are most vulnerable.