Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Secretary Duncan joined Attorney General Holder yesterday for the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention forum to share the results of a groundbreaking study on school discipline and to announce the launch of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. The Initiative is a new step in improving school discipline procedures and ending the “school to prison pipeline” that affects far too many of the nation’s students.

School Crosswalk SignThe study by the Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute examines the disciplinary records of all Texas seventh-graders for a six-year period beginning in the year 2000. First, the study found that almost 6 out of 10 students, a disproportionate number of them African-Americans or students designated as suffering from an “emotional disturbance,” were suspended or expelled between 7th and 12th grade. These students were subsequently more likely to be held back a grade level or to develop criminal records. However, the study also showed that discipline varied significantly between schools, even if the schools had similar ethnic or economic demographics. All told, the report revealed the urgent need for more thoughtful leadership in determining school discipline policies.

“When our young people start getting locked up and getting criminal records, they start getting locked into poverty,” Secretary Duncan said. The Secretary attributed the disparity to a lack of information about effective ways of disciplining students.

Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder emphasized that juvenile delinquency could be corrected by providing schools with more information on how to improve troubled students’ behavior, without causing them to drop out of school and end up “falling through the cracks.”

Duncan and Holder then outlined the goals of the Supportive School Discipline Initiative. The goals are to:

  • Build the consensus for action among federal, state and local education and justice stakeholders;
  • Collaborate on research and data collection;
  • Promote positive disciplinary options to both keep kids in school and improve the climate for learning; and
  • Promote awareness and knowledge about evidence-based and promising policies and practices among state judicial and education leadership.

Duncan and Holder called for more leadership and collaboration in producing sound disciplinary policies in America’s classrooms.

“So many of these young people need a helping hand, need assistance, but also need clear boundaries and clear guidelines,” said Secretary Duncan. “What they don’t need is to be pushed out the door or to start a criminal record. We need to be a lot more thoughtful in how we address this.”


  1. This affecting our children of all races and all socio-economical backgrounds. With so many jobs lost, foreclosed homes, kids are enrolling at predominately hispanic schools as the white minority. There is much to consider. Fortunately, my 1st grader isn’t going to become a statistic, but he is not unscathed. It can be difficult to keep yourself confident enough to battle the (public, charter & private) school administration. They label kids. There are a few categories for all and the label is determined in Kindergarten to basically stick with a child through 12th grade. Ferpa is not 100% protective of our children it places the HUGE adjustment of beginning school into your permanent record. It has caused my child to be placed into a behavioral category that causes schools to deny him enrollment due to ‘disciplinary issues’. He is completely shunned by every elementary school based on complete misinformation and I am terrified for his future. His image of himself has been altered even though I try to encourage him to see things constructively. He has been labeled and it would continue down the school to prison path that has been paved by the institutional curriculum. I am aware that there are many who care and are trying to change this, but I am want to see more compassion in our elementary schools. K-2 is a precious developing phase that has been trampled upon in our particular situation. My son still has me, but if he didn’t I am not confident he wouldn’t fall through these flaws. The many different circumstances families are struggling with are not dealt with effectively or wisely. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.

  2. I should mention that my teaching in Detroit was guided by one of my cousins that grew up in Humbolt Park, Chicago. He fell to the pressure of the Latin Disciples while his brothers became Latin Kings, brother against brother. He entered the correctional system early. St. Charles, a juvenile detention center, was his first institution. Later in life, I would visit him in Michigan prisons where he would beg me to teach with heart because kids in the ‘hoods across America want a success story that looks like them. He urged me to teach them money making skills or the dope dealers would. I began mentoring. Screen printing was the key, but without cultural sensitivity, anything fails in the ‘hood. We were the motor city. My students loved cars and music. Their motivation was easy. Who doesn’t want their work to be seen. That’s why the hip hop generation loves grafitti. It’s their fifteen minutes of fame. It says, “I exist.”
    Screen printing introduced them to entrepreneurship, making money legally. Isaac ended up at SVA in Manhattan, Omar and I were documented in the RARE video with funding from the U.S. Dept. of Education. Jonathan Meyer and Dalia Reyes also graduated from the College for Creative Studies! Mauricio is transferring to Wayne State University to study theater. He got turned on when he won Scholastic’s American Vision Award, and the prize was to meet Jerry Bruckheimer, the film maker from Detroit. Mentorship is where it’s at. Data can be skewed. I love the real evidence, successful Americans who lead by example. As long as there are Americans from all cultures, there is hope. If you can read this, thank a teacher. I love you Mrs. McCormick, where ever you are in the universe. Nia Mora, professional photographer from Detroit via New York City, identical twin sister of America’s Next Top Model, Naima Mora, will be moving to Kaua’i with us. She happens to be my niece. She hopes to do workshops and motivational speaking here in Hawaii. All my students at Kapa’a High were waiting to meet her and get inspired. When a student gets inspired, prison becomes the last place you would want to be. You cannot create freely there. Access to ideas has been cut. It then becomes a choice to students, dignity through earned accomplishments or the curse of prison where no one really has time to care for you. I must report to you that my student, a new immigrant, won grand prize in Kaua’i’s calendar art contest! Another young senior earned semi-finalist in the Mazie Hiriono’s Congressional Art Contest. Art works in the rough gritty ghetto of ground zero, Detroit, all the way to paradise on earth in the free world, Kaua’i. Of course any teacher is invited to come enjoy our pristine beaches and “talk story” or discuss what inspires students and produces results. We happen to be one of the schools that received the Race to the Top moneys. Unfortuately, I need to pass one more Praxis test to get licensed in Hawaii. Everything happens for a reason; this allowed me to start writing stories of what worked in a city that normally gets bashed in the media. Detroit follows me here. I gave a presentation and told them why I mentor. I showed them a photo of the science class that Ben Carson wrote about. The following week, a student said he saw that they made a movie about Ben. I thought he was joking, but Cuba Gooding Jr. plays him. These wonderful students in Hawaii listen to Eminem too. i showed them the neighborhood where I once lived and taught. It’s across the street from the old Tiger Stadium that is being demolished in Eminem’s video, Beautiful. Then we Google Mapped my house. I love technology. It established instant credibility. Students appreciate credibility. Then the question, “Why did you leave?” i didn’t tell them that my son’s school mate, Jesus Christian Sanchez, had just been shot in the head. Kaua’i is a very gentle society, and I had just met the kids, so I showed them the photo of the .44 bullet hole that my F-150 received at temple level where the rubber meets the driver’s window. I told them it was mainly because of my RA arthritis. I can slip on ice there too easily. I like the weather better here. Thanks especially goes out to my former students who voted me “Most Connected”. May many of you respond to the calling of teaching. Aloha!

  3. Truly, Secretary Duncan and Attorney General Holder, are moving to mobilize and counter, the most dangerous social cancer, still undetected, by mainstream America; the rising of an underclass of criminals, speaks to the possibility of civil unrest that this country has never experience. Urban nihilism could come from it all. America must do something and immediately about the pipeline of schools to prison. Again, this danger surpasses the threat of foreign terrorism on the scale of just common sense. Genuinely, it’s more than an ordinary seed of just bad behavior, frankly, what we got here is real evil . . . . It’s more than just a dangerous seed, And, if not confronted effectively this situation can turn into a harvest of full scale anarchy!

  4. I am currently writing a book with my own el dia de los muertos original watercolors that will have stories of how an immigrant’s son from the poorest of the poor indians in Michoacan, Mexico became a teacher in the inner city of Detroit, Arne Duncan’s ground zero, to only to learn there is still hope in America! He meets a young blue jean overalls who wants to live the American Dream. This takes place in one of Ben Carson’s middle schools in Detroit on Lane & Central, and in 1987 appeared on the news as the gang recruitment school, so they changed the name to Phoenix Multicultural Academy because no one would send their kids to Wilson if they could help it. Of course you can Google Rashida Tlaib or contact her on FB. She was my eighth grade student. I will tell the story of young immigrant from Monterrey, Mexico whose mother finally took the pledge. She had to learn the constitution better than most of us Americans, but her baby Deyanira became the kindergarten teacher who probably had to tell the other kindergarteners that Margarita had an accident and wouldn’t be in class. She calmed her class. Margarita had been shot in the head because some idiot gang bangers decided to shoot through her house’s living room window. These students got it. They became part of the American Dream. I just finished the painting of Jalen Rose, my wife’s high school student, #42 at Detroit Southwestern on W. Fort in the straight up ghetto. He sort of missed prison. We’re not sorry statisticians. We are eternal teachers. Oh he can say, I just opened an academy in Detroit with my money in Spanish. I can guarantee that. Maria Costa used to confide in my wife at Southwestern as her mentor. Google what became of her. America, we are not sorry prison missed Maria. She became successful too! You might have seen her on the old TV series, Dangerous Minds with Anne Potts. My wife taught “Blanca” Spanish way back in Detroit. Nia Mora followed her dream to become a professional photographer in NYC after she graduated from the prestigious School of Fine Art. Hey, I thought Detroit was ground zero?????? The list is way too long. Just wait for the book. I had the best teachers, mentors, and a lady named Marie Magdalene that told me if I stuck another needle in my arm with that poisonous junk, she’d walk out the door and never see me again. That was thirty two years ago. So the book will contain love stories like that. The Chicanos of barrio Sunnyside, (Michigan’s poorest) came from Cotulla, Texas. Our parents had a guy named Lyndon Baines Johnson who taught school to a bunch of poor southern Texan children. Little did he know, he would inspire a whole neighborhood to become involved with some form of education. I need no offices to make money off anyone. The universe has provided me with everything I need. I no longer live at 1632 Church St. in Detroit because I read an article in the Detroit news that the Detroit Public Schools were going to cut the Arts because of budget cuts. It’s a frill to some. But look at the prison statistics. There are tons of creative folks in prison with some type of social flaw that should have been addressed ideally through the arts. The NCLB law would have left me unemployed. I raised five children through teaching art. I do need some advice about getting my work published. The industry has changed, but I would love people to see the illustrations that accompany the short stories. You can FB me. Well the sun has risen, and the birds are chirping here in Wailua. I am writing you from the base of the mountain here in Kaua’i, Sleeping Giant. Expect some positive stories from a person who has found his American Dream. I just had to get to Polynesia:) Aloha America!

  5. As I study the inner-cities of America I see young children growing up in a every negative environment in many ways that can dictate their failure to live a productive life. Our young children must be taught and shown how to make better choices and how to overcome being trap and becoming a product of the negative environment that exist in cities all over America. I have found a solution call Life Guide for America, it is said to be one of the best teaching tool in America. I think it is the best!!

  6. It was sink or swim when I was little.Either you looked out for yourself and made it or you died on the street.No one except you and God cared either way.Now so many are going to prison and other problems mandate an effort to help children but if it is superficial it won’t work.I wish I had done a little better but at least I stayed free and alive.

  7. I am really pleased that the Secretary and Attorney General have taken up this banner. This issue is one of the most exstensive problems in the Urban school setting.
    By investigating and implementing a program that works we can make changes that will positively effect the minds of young people for years to come.

  8. i’m so happy that someone is finally addressing this issue. my professor told me about this problem last year in her classroom. and i was devastated when i looked back and realized it was true. so i’m glad someone else cares about it and i pray i can be of some service to children of all races in some way, because my business is kids.

  9. This is an issue close to my heart. A former teacher in the inner city, I now direct a small nonprofit in central CA. Advocating for students/families in disputes with school districts as well as advocating for services for special needs kids, etc.. For 18 months I have been funding this on my own because there doesn’t appear any funding allocated for independent advocates. Please let me know how I might find grant applications, etc.. for this work. Ultimately, I would like to be an independent Ombudsman for this area and set up these offices across the nation. I hope this interests you. Thank you.

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