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"School-to-prison" Pipeline: Report Highlights NC's Punitive Discipline

Photo: New report highlights a "school to prison" pipeline in North Carolina. Courtesy: Action for Children North Carolina
Photo: New report highlights a "school to prison" pipeline in North Carolina. Courtesy: Action for Children North Carolina
October 31, 2013

RALEIGH, N.C. – Discipline practices at some public school systems in North Carolina are preparing students for prison instead of a profession, according to a report released Wednesday by Action for Children North Carolina.

The problem stems from a trend for school systems to involve the juvenile justice system, even for the most mundane discipline problems, instead of dealing with the problem internally, according to Deborah Bryan, the organization’s president and CEO.

"School districts are strapped,” she says. “They're short-staffed already, so it is a challenge already for them to deal with some of these discipline behaviors."

Bryan says once students are in the juvenile justice system, they are four times more likely to drop out of high school, compared with their peers and eight times more likely to end up in jail or prison.

Bryan points out there also appears to be racial disparity when it comes to student punishment.

During the 2011-12 school year, North Carolina public schools issued 258,000 suspensions and three-fifths of them went to black students, who make up just a quarter of the state's population.

Bryan says the data indicates a systemic problem.

"Equity in how children are treated in school is one of the issues,” she says, “and also what resources are available to help them, particularly in the early stages of life, get off to the right start. "

The report recommends the state raise the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 16 to 18 for youth charged with misdemeanors and establish a task force to examine school discipline practices.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC