October 01, 2016

ABA Policy Seeks to End School-to-Prison Pipeline

Claire Chiamulera

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

The U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights reports that in the 2011-12 school year:

  • 3.45  million students were suspended at least once from school, and about 130,000 were expelled —most for minor infractions.
  • Schools referred around  260,000 students to law enforcement.
  • Approximately 92,000 students were arrested on school property

For many of these youth, these practices lead to school drop-out and entry into juvenile justice facilities.

To reduce the numbers of youth who leave school and become involved in the criminal justice system, the American Bar Association passed a policy resolution at its August 2016 annual meeting. The policy addressed the issue on several fronts, encouraging federal, state, territorial and local legislative and government bodies to take the following steps:

  • Adopt laws, legislation and policies to eliminate the school to prison pipeline by reducing the disparate treatment and discipline of marginalized groups: children of color, LGBTQ youth, children with disabilities, homeless youth, and others.

  • Provide bias training for school personnel, juvenile court judges, and law enforcement.

  • Report data on school discipline to the Office of Civil Rights, and distinguish between school and law enforcement-related discipline.

  • Support legislation to end using suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement for lower level offenses.

The resolution also urges prosecutors’ offices and associations to develop screening and charging procedures and best practices for school-referred cases involving student discipline to juvenile courts.

Read the policy resolution and report.