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Local View: Zero-tolerance only fuels school-to-prison pipeline

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2527051","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"120","title":"Emily Weber","width":"88"}}]]We believe America is the land where dreams can come true. By working hard and earning a...


We believe America is the land where dreams can come true. By working hard and earning a good education one should be able to achieve whatever dreams one may have. But the truth is there are children in America who do not have a fair chance at making their dreams come true. They are victims of the school-to-prison pipeline.According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, black students are expelled at three times the rate of white students. This gets them out of the classroom and away from completing their education.The United States is one of the world’s leaders in incarceration rates per capita. The U.S. has a quarter of the world’s prisoners, even though it only holds 5 percent of the world’s population. We have created a culture of punishment and consequences for misbehavior in the classroom. This culture has developed through zero-tolerance policies and the increasing presence of police on school grounds. Zero-tolerance policies have predetermined consequences no matter what the offense might be, ruling out situational considerations.School systems are not set up to benefit everyone equally. The path to completing a high school education is not the same for white students as it is for minority students. Black students are overrepresented in referrals (63 percent) and suspensions (67.2 percent) while making up only 56 percent of student populations.Zero-tolerance policies have caused an imbalance by driving minorities out of classrooms and into the justice system. How school systems react to this knowledge either reinforces or dismantles the school-to-prison pipeline. There has been discussion about how to combat zero-tolerance with prevention strategies, starting with the educators in the classrooms. Effective staff development based on meeting children’s needs and not focusing on the actions committed is a start toward developing an attitude that is counter to the school-to-prison pipeline. Eliminating zero-tolerance is a way to interrupt the trajectory of the school-to-prison pipeline and to propose the idea of redirecting the misbehavior. If we eliminate zero-tolerance policies, case by case, we can create a space for students to learn where they won’t be criminalized. Although intended to create safe learning environments, zero-tolerance only has fueled the school-to-prison pipeline.By eliminating zero-tolerance policies, we can focus on creating positive school climates. In September 2015, an Independent School District 709 newsletter addressed how zero tolerance is ineffective regarding bullying and that the emphasis should be on growing empathetic leaders at each grade level, which fosters a more-inclusive climate.The punitive atmosphere of our society is costly developmentally for our future leaders. We need our future leaders to be empowered to become productive members of society, not to be raised in fear of wondering when they will have to spend their time in prison. Emily Weber is a junior at the University of Minnesota Duluth, studying social work.
We believe America is the land where dreams can come true. By working hard and earning a good education one should be able to achieve whatever dreams one may have. But the truth is there are children in America who do not have a fair chance at making their dreams come true. They are victims of the school-to-prison pipeline.According to the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, black students are expelled at three times the rate of white students. This gets them out of the classroom and away from completing their education.The United States is one of the world’s leaders in incarceration rates per capita. The U.S. has a quarter of the world’s prisoners, even though it only holds 5 percent of the world’s population. We have created a culture of punishment and consequences for misbehavior in the classroom. This culture has developed through zero-tolerance policies and the increasing presence of police on school grounds. Zero-tolerance policies have predetermined consequences no matter what the offense might be, ruling out situational considerations.School systems are not set up to benefit everyone equally. The path to completing a high school education is not the same for white students as it is for minority students. Black students are overrepresented in referrals (63 percent) and suspensions (67.2 percent) while making up only 56 percent of student populations.Zero-tolerance policies have caused an imbalance by driving minorities out of classrooms and into the justice system. How school systems react to this knowledge either reinforces or dismantles the school-to-prison pipeline. There has been discussion about how to combat zero-tolerance with prevention strategies, starting with the educators in the classrooms. Effective staff development based on meeting children’s needs and not focusing on the actions committed is a start toward developing an attitude that is counter to the school-to-prison pipeline. Eliminating zero-tolerance is a way to interrupt the trajectory of the school-to-prison pipeline and to propose the idea of redirecting the misbehavior. If we eliminate zero-tolerance policies, case by case, we can create a space for students to learn where they won’t be criminalized. Although intended to create safe learning environments, zero-tolerance only has fueled the school-to-prison pipeline.By eliminating zero-tolerance policies, we can focus on creating positive school climates. In September 2015, an Independent School District 709 newsletter addressed how zero tolerance is ineffective regarding bullying and that the emphasis should be on growing empathetic leaders at each grade level, which fosters a more-inclusive climate.The punitive atmosphere of our society is costly developmentally for our future leaders. We need our future leaders to be empowered to become productive members of society, not to be raised in fear of wondering when they will have to spend their time in prison.Emily Weber is a junior at the University of Minnesota Duluth, studying social work.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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