by Kadjata Bah, age 14; Teen Editor: Simpson Street Free Press
The way that behavior is managed in schools can be crucial, especially in this time when “school-to-prison pipelines” are realities for many students. Schools are often quick to impose suspensions that leave students out of classrooms during school-day hours. This problem, however, does not impact all students equally. Across the country, Black students are three times as likely to be suspended than white students, according to findings of the Civil Rights Data Collection. Research shows that placing law enforcement officers in schools only adds to suspensions, expulsions, and even arrests. One way to challenge school-to-prison pipelines is to replace zero tolerance policies with Restorative Justice alternatives.
During the 2015-2016 school year, students in the United States missed about 11 million school days due to suspensions, according to an American Civil Liberties Union report, “11 Million Days Lost: Race, Discipline, and Safety at U.S. Schools.” Children are suspended for “offenses” including being tardy, talking back, or using “inappropriate” language. When students miss school for minor misconduct, they lose valuable class time, which lowers school performance.
In an article titled “Do Zero Tolerance School Discipline Policies Go Too Far?,” TIME Magazine highlighted the story of Janeisha, a ninth-grade student who fell behind in school. Her frustration grew, which made her more likely to act out. For many like Janeisha, after getting suspended even once, chances of graduating decrease, while chances of dropping out increase. [read more]