What Is the School-to-Prison Pipeline, and How Do We Disrupt It?
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School policies that include harsh punishments, automatic out-of-class time and police involvement for discipline contribute to pushing young people out of classrooms and into the criminal legal system. These punitive practices disproportionately affect Black and other children of color, students with disabilities, young people experiencing poverty and children from communities that have been historically marginalized. 

Urgent change is needed to disrupt this school-to-prison pipeline. Together, educators and families can advocate for and implement practices that prioritize mental health and well-being and do not push children out of the classroom.

We offer these resources to open dialogue, shift practices and foster change to benefit all young people. 

[Updated May 2024]

Cover of the "Keep Her Safe: Centering Black Girls in School Safety" report.


Keep Her Safe: Centering Black Girls in School Safety
[2024] This case study and report by the National Women’s Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center with Black girls in Miami-Dade County Public Schools demonstrates how critical insights can come from centering Black girls in the school safety conversation.

Applying Universal Design for Learning (UDL) Supports Inclusive Education 
[2024] Ensuring education is inclusive of young people with diverse needs and abilities takes intentional practice. This article and toolkit highlights Universal Design for Learning (UDL) practices that can help educators design experiences that benefit all students and prevent children being pushed out of classrooms and into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Stylized and colorful illustration of faces.

Healing Through Restoration and Transformation
[2023] Highlighting a community Freedom School model in Mississippi that embraces transformative practices to strengthen relationships and disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, this article illustrates the power of communities to effect change.

Toolkit: Peace-Building Circles
[2023] Transforming discipline practices requires commitment to processes that strengthen relationships among individuals and connections within communities. This toolkit, which accompanies the “Healing Through Restoration and Transformation” article, provides details for using peace-building circles.

Decarceration Begins With School Discipline Reform
[2022] By connecting harsh punitive practices in schools to the history of incarceration of Black Americans, this article contends that educators have a role in ending discipline that criminalizes youth. Reforms, including trauma-informed and restorative practices, can disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.

It Was Always About Control
[2021] This article examines how compliance is at the root of discipline that harms young people and the urgent need to advocate for change. 

Illustration of various people gathered together.

Toolkit: The Foundations of Restorative Justice
[2021] School discipline and classroom management do not have to be based in compliance. Learn more about restorative practices in this article, a companion piece to “It Was Always About Control.”

Criminalizing Blackness: Prisons, Police and Jim Crow [Podcast Episode]
from Teaching Hard History podcast series, Season 4, Episode 13
[2022] After emancipation, aspects of the legal system were reshaped to maintain control of Black lives and labor. Historian Robert T. Chase outlines the evolution of convict leasing in the prison system. And Historian Brandon T. Jett explores the commercial factors behind the transition from extra-legal lynchings to police enforcement of the color line. We examine the connections between these early practices and the more familiar apparatuses of today’s justice system—from policing to penitentiaries. 

From Slavery to School Discipline
[2022] By examining the connection between school discipline and the history of slavery, this article explains how envisioning schools that affirm and protect Black students means reckoning with a long history of racist punishment.

Envisioning School Safety Without Police
[2021] This article examines how communities across the country are mobilizing to improve school safety without police presence while advocating for students’ dignity. 

Parents Push for School Safety
[2021] This article highlights how a parent-led grassroots organization in Georgia chips away at punitive school discipline policies and works to remove police from their schools.

Trauma Responsive Education
[2020] This webinar will help educators gain a common understanding of trauma and how it affects both learning and relationships at school—for students and educators alike.

The School-to-Deportation Pipeline
[2019] As immigration enforcement becomes more aggressive, schools have become increasingly risky places for undocumented students. This article examines the crucial concern of the school-to-deportation pipeline.

Loc’d Out: How Thoughtless Dress Codes Can Harm Students from Day One
[2018] This article emphasizes how culturally insensitive policies that force students to hide their identities defy the mission of establishing an inclusive learning environment.

Controlling the Student Body
[2017] This article examines how dress and behavior policies that are not inclusive harm students and lead to unnecessary disciplinary actions.

PD Cafe illustration

Responding to Trauma in Your Classroom
[2016] This article can help educators learn how to recognize the signs of trauma, better understand the causes of trauma, and take steps to establish social and emotional safety in the classroom.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline
[2013] Revisit this article that explains the basics of the school-to-prison pipeline and contends that policies and practices that favor incarceration over education do us all a grave injustice.

A Teachers Guide to Rerouting the Pipeline and Toolkit for Rerouting the Pipeline
[2013] This article and the accompanying toolkit illustrate how daily decisions can help divert students from the school-to-prison pipeline.