Approved by NCTE Members Voting at the Annual Business Meeting for the
Board of Directors and Other Members of the Council, November 2015
Ratified by a Vote of the NCTE Membership, February 2016
Background: The School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP) is an injurious yet growing system of institutional inequity that funnels young people from schools to prisons. As part of the crisis of mass incarceration, STPP is a dimension of Jim Crow, redesigned. It is a disturbing national trend wherein children are policed out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems, an increasing percentage of which are privatized. Many of these children are cognitively atypical or endure histories of poverty, abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Such students would benefit from additional educational and counseling services instead of the current practice of isolation, penalization, and suspension/expulsion. Alternately, some students are forced into this pipeline without cause—simply for being socially and culturally different. When combined with zero-tolerance policies, educators’ decisions to refer students for discipline might lead to harsh and enduring punishment, contributing to extremely high dropout and “pushout” rates. Such students are much more likely to be introduced into the criminal justice system.
Who Is in the Pipeline?
- Racial minorities and children with atypical abilities are disproportionately represented in STPP. According to a nationwide study by the US Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, African American students are 3.5 times more likely than their White classmates to be suspended or expelled. Black children constitute 18 percent of students, but they account for 46 percent of those suspended more than once.
- For students with atypical abilities, the numbers are equally troubling. One report found that while 8.6 percent of public school children have been identified as atypical, these students make up 32 percent of youth in juvenile detention centers.
- The racial disparities are even starker for atypical students of color. According to an analysis of the government report by Daniel J. Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies of the Civil Rights Project at UCLA, about 1 in 4 atypical Black children were suspended at least once versus 1 in 11 atypical White students.
- A 2014 landmark study tracked nearly one million Texas students for at least six years. The study controlled for more than 80 variables, such as socioeconomic class. The study found that African Americans were disproportionately punished compared with otherwise similar White and Latino students. Children with emotional differences also were disproportionately suspended and/or expelled.
- In another study, Losen found racial differences in suspension rates have widened since the early 1970s and that suspension is used more frequently as a disciplinary tool. However, other research, including a more recent study by Losen, shows that removing children from school does not improve their behavior.
Since the School-to-Prison Pipeline (STPP) is an injurious yet growing system of institutional inequity that funnels young people who are cognitively atypical or have endured histories of poverty, abuse, neglect, and/or trauma from schools to prisons, be it therefore resolved that the National Council of Teachers of English
- partner with local and national STPP advocacy groups and other professional literacy organizations to bring awareness of this crisis to a broader audience, including community leaders and policymakers;
- strengthen the knowledge base of teacher educators, teachers, counselors, and administrators regarding the relationships among mass incarceration and school curricula, practices, and policies;
- encourage the development and dissemination of restorative and culturally-sustaining pedagogical tools (e.g., research, classroom teaching strategies, and assessments) that help dismantle STPP; and
- identify and disseminate research that supports proactive inclusion of literacy in social justice work.
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