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Breaking the school-to-prison pipeline

By Freddie Allen
NNPA

WASHINGTON — In schools today, Black students get suspended at a rate that is more than triple the rate of their white classmates. As the uneven enforcement of zero tolerance policies disconnect minority students from their schools, juvenile detention centers and in some cases, adult prisons welcome them with open arms.

Data collected by the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education found that 70 percent of students arrested or handed over to law enforcement were Black and Latino.

“For many young people our schools are increasingly a gateway to the criminal justice system,” said Senator Dick Durbin, D-Ill., during a Senate subcommittee hearing in December that addressed the consequences of the school-to- prison pipeline.

“What’s especially concerning about this phenomenon is that it deprives our kids of a fundamental right to education.”

Fearing the long-term social and economic impacts of the school-to-prison pipeline, lawmakers, educators, parents and students have united to keep children in classrooms and out of courtrooms.

The school-to-prison pipeline has roots in the zero tolerance rhetoric popularized by the war on drugs. In an effort to get tough on school violence, President Bill Clinton signed the Gun Free Schools Act of 1994. Clinton called for more police on school campuses and even funded the project through his Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) In Schools Program.

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