This is one of the culminating projects created by the Summer 2008 TeamChild Law and Policy Interns.
We created this toolkit in order to:
1. Create institutional memory of our work
2. Pass on our work so that whomever may decide to build on it won’t have to start from scratch
In this toolkit you will find:
3. Links to useful websites and information about non-exclusionary punishments/consequences. Access them here.
4. A paper documenting the collateral consequences of exclusionary discipline policies. Access it here.
A little background:
We began our 10-week internship with a very large binder of reading, including important education cases, research, and anecdotes about the “school-to-prison-pipeline.”
The “school-to-prison pipeline” describes the cumulative effect of various federal, state, and school district punishment and education policies that are leading students away from high school completion or college and toward dropping-out and juvenile justice involvement. One such punishment policy is known as “Zero Tolerance," which is generally described as a system of discipline that imposes severe predetermined punishments for a variety of misconduct regardless of the circumstances surrounding the incident. School administrators who use Zero Tolerance - and not all of them do - use suspension or expulsion for certain behaviors after asking few to no questions about the incident.
During our first week at TeamChild we received a paper assignment and many readings on the pipeline. In addition, we met with Dan Ford at Columbia Legal Services and Kyana Stephens at the Defender Association to learn about different advocacy approaches. We also began to sort our whether we wanted to focus our attention at a local school district, at Washington State policy, or at the national picture.
Also during our first weeks, we created and conducted educational workshops for detained girls in King County; as a result, we began to rethink the “school-to-prison pipeline” language. First, this phrasing does not acknowledge the many issues aside from school that contribute to a child’s involvement in the juvenile justice system. The detained girls didn’t connect with the phrase, “school-to-prison pipeline” as it is not inclusive of the complexities of their individual situations and struggles. In addition, the language puts people on the defensive as it identifies school as the starting point for juvenile justice involvement, when schools can actually provide effective solutions and teachers have been instrumental in making positive changes for students. We had many dynamic conversations about what to call the link between school punishment policies and youth involvement in the juvenile justice system. A TeamChild intern, Yonnie Redmond, came up with the concept of the “domino effect” and urges all people to stand together for youth. She defines the domino effect this way:
The domino effect is the theory that if homes, schools, and the communities all stand strong and work together then there would be less kids winding up in the streets. If home isn’t strong and leans on the school for support, and the schools lean on the communities or outside help and no one is there to catch the kids except for the streets. The dominos of the home, schools, and communities all fall down.
At this point, we are using the “school-to-prison” language sporadically but more so we are describing the phenomenon more broadly: “the link between school punishment policies and juvenile justice involvement.”
Also on the language front, we have started to move away from describing consequences for misbehavior in school as “discipline,” opting instead for the word “punishment.” This change emerged after a conversation at a round table event with Seattle School Board members, where one member pointed out that discipline is something internal and individual to a person while punishment is an external factor, imposed on a person from the outside.
After the school board round table, the second in a series of three meetings with local policy makers, we decided that our advocacy component would have four main components:
1. We made a website to provide information about the school to prison pipeline in Washington
· The website includes stories we collected from girls in detention about their experiences in school and juvy.
· The website also contains a movie created by the youth interns with whom we worked this summer.
2. We scheduled a presentation to deliver to
the Seattle School Board in September. We will present on the impact
of zero and l
3. We made a fact sheet for the Seattle School Board presentation.
4. An extended version of this online toolkit.
It contains readings and data we found most useful. If you’d like
The goal of these components is to get information to the most people in the most efficient way.
Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction:
NYCLU documentaries about the pipeline made by youth:
Text of Senator Obama’s bill requesting that schools be permitted to use federal money to implement Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) in public schools
Seattle articles relating to the pipeline:
Audio of legislative work session about the connection between school punishment and juvenile justice involvement:
Video clips of 2007 Seattle conference on the pipeline:
Information about a peer mediation program labeled “Promising” by SAMHSA (US Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)