Why did laws intended to make schools safer backfire?
Zero Tolerance. In 1994 schools across the United States implemented Zero Tolerance policies after federal legislation required expulsion for one year when students brought a weapon to school. Many schools expanded this policy to reduce possession or use of illicit and prevent violence.
A multitude of “misbehaviors” escalated to more than 3 million students suspended from schools in 2010. This is double the number of suspensions in the 1970s. Traditional punishment is not working in schools across the country.
Why are American schools pushing students out of school?
Downward Spiral. The increase in suspensions has created a downward spiral for countless students. Students are suspended, often unsupervised which allows opportunities to get into further trouble. Students return to school but their behavior is not only unchanged, they often return angry and resentful. These students typically continue inappropriate behaviors which results in more suspensions.
Why do American schools suspend so many students?
School-to-Prison Pipeline. Every day that students miss school, they fall further behind. The more class they miss, the less likely they are to graduate. Those who miss too much school often end up dropping out and find themselves in trouble with the law. This practice of pushing students out of schools towards the juvenile and criminal justice systems is referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline.
Is there any hope for students?
Restorative Practices. Restorative Practices (RP) has its roots in Restorative Justice. This is a newer field of study that is being used in schools to improve student’s accountability, repair harm, and restore relationships. Many schools are effectively using RP to address the school-to-prison pipeline. RP is used with all students, beginning with building community amongst students and staff.
What can reverse this trend?
Innovative Success. We need to explore alternatives to traditional discipline that increase student responsibility, and decrease classroom disruptions, suspensions and expulsions. To find out more about these innovating strategies that are positively changing the lives of students on my web page http://fromdiaperstodiamonds.com/restorative-practices/
To view your U.S. school district’s suspension rates visit http://www.schooldisciplinedata.org/ccrr/index.php
Image source: child handcuffed [flickr.com]