University of Wisconsin–Madison

Students Under Siege: How the School-to-Prison Pipeline, Poverty, and Racism Endanger Our School Children

Type Policy Brief or Report
Year 2018
Level Other Boards and Agencies
State(s) All States
Policy Areas Children & Families, Civil Rights, Education
The path to prison often begins in childhood and in schools segregated by race and class. Over the past 40 years, American schools with high Black and brown student populations in low-income and poor communities have come to resemble prisons more than places of learning. Behaviors typical of children and adolescents have been rendered criminal by harsh disciplinary policies, mandated suspensions and expulsions, and increased law enforcement presence in U.S. schools. Students of color, LGBTQ+ students, students from low- income households, and students with disabilities are routinely pushed out of schools and into criminal legal systems by these policies and the assumptions that undergird them. This report explores the underreported side of school safety: the dangers of punitive school punishment, pushout, and referrals to law enforcement, and the origins of these disciplinary policies, who they target, what is at risk, and what can be done in order to facilitate safe schools that treat the whole child, with attention to social and emotional development.

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