Dear Commons Community,
One of the serious problems in our public education system that does not get anywhere near enough attention is what is generally referred to as the “school to prison pipeline”. A New York Times editorial calls on officials particularly here in New York to examine policies that all too often remove our children, mostly black and Latino boys, from their schools for minor issues and subjects them to the risk of a criminal justice system that simply does not deal with them properly. As the editorial states:
“School officials across the country responded to a surge in juvenile crime during the 1980s and the Columbine High School shootings a decade later by tightening disciplinary policies and increasing the number of police patrolling public schools. One unfortunate result has been the creation of a repressive environment in which young people are suspended, expelled or even arrested over minor misbehaviors — like talking back or disrupting class — that would once have been handled by the principal.
The policies have not made schools safer. However, by criminalizing routine disciplinary problems, they have damaged the lives of many children by making them more likely to drop out and entangling them, sometimes permanently, in the criminal justice system. The policies are also discriminatory: black and Hispanic children are shipped off to court more frequently than white students who commit similar infractions.
The need to chart a new course in school discipline is underscored in a report scheduled to be released on Thursday by the New York City School-Justice Partnership Task Force, a working group led by Judith Kaye, the former chief judge of the State of New York, and composed of people from the fields of law enforcement, education, philanthropy, civil rights and child advocacy.
The task force examined disciplinary practices in the city’s 1.1 million-student system during the 2011-2012 school year. It found that “the overwhelming majority of school-related suspensions, summonses and arrests are for minor misbehavior, behavior that occurs on a daily basis in most schools.”
The numbers are startling. The city schools imposed nearly 70,000 suspensions in the 2011-2012 school year, 40 percent more than the period six years earlier. Of the 882 arrests during the school year studied, one in every six was for “resisting arrest” or “obstructing governmental administration,” charges for which there is often no underlying criminal behavior. The authorities also issued more than 1,600 summonses — tickets that require the student to appear in criminal court and that can lead to arrest for those who fail to appear. “
The Times editorial is on target. This is an issue that needs attention and rectification.