National Center for Youth Law


Shutting Down the School to Prison Pipeline

Across the nation, schools districts are implementing punitive disciplinary policies that push students out of school. Law enforcement is also gaining a greater role on campuses leading to  increased arrest and referrals to juvenile  courts. The “school-to-prison pipeline” is a phenomenon documented in a growing body of state and national research. Disrupting class, using profanity, misbehaving on a school bus, student fights, and truancy once meant a trip to the principal’s office. Now they often lead suspension, ticketing and arrest. NCYL seeks to interrupt this destructive cycle and prevent the loss of more young people to the “school-to-prison pipeline” through early interventions focused on creating positive school environments that address students’ academic and behavioral needs. NCYL has launched a campaign to ensure all California students receive educational instruction to stay on the path to graduation and out of the criminal justice system. 

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California’s constitution entitles all children to a meaningful education. There is much dispute among lawyers, educators and policymakers as to what that means. What is not in dispute is that a substantial number of California children are receiving little or no educational instruction at all:

  • Over 6,500 California students are expelled each year with minimal or no educational instruction provided while they are expelled.
  • Over 280,000 California students are suspended from school each year, receiving minimal or no educational instruction while they are at home. Countless more students are sent home without the district formally suspending the student.
  • School districts currently can and often do place students in alternative education programs in which they receive as little as 2 hours of instruction per week. The rest of their education consists of completing handouts at home.
  • Students with behavioral issues are increasingly being pushed to enroll in online charter schools, run by for-profit companies, with little monitoring as to whether students are participating, much less learning.

NCYL’s California campaign to shut down the School-to-Prison Pipeline includes:

  • Litigation against those school districts suspending and expelling disproportionately large percentages of students, especially those disproportionately pushing out students of color and students with disabilities.
  • Building the capacity of communities to file complaints with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) when school districts are disproportionately excluding students of color from the classroom.
  • Legislation that will reduce  the number of students excluded from the classroom.

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