Wednesday, January 1, 2014

It’s Time to Close New York’s School-to-Prison Pipeline

Incoming New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio does not lack for issues demanding his immediate attention. Among them are the historic levels of income inequality and homelessness, as well as the matter of a militarized police force and its abuse of power, particularly with regard to communities of color. So he certainly has his work cut out for him. But if he wishes to address many of these urgent issues at the same time while also tackling something of great importance in its own right, a major priority for his administration should be closing the school-to-prison pipeline—the name given to a set of regressive, “zero tolerance” policies that frequently end up pushing students into the criminal justice system instead of through school.

In May of last year, the New York Times editorial board described the situation as follows: “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.”

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