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Phillips 1
Darine Phillips
Thea Bachmann
English 120
22 April 2020
Black Youth and the School-to-Prison Pipeline
In the U.S most schools are increasingly turning a blind eye on the prevailing
exclusionary practices that limit access to education for minority groups. Young black adults are
at the highest risk of such policies which drive them towards the criminal justice system instead
of providing a fair opportunity or access to education. On this note, the number of black students
facing incarcerations and detention at juvenile centers is rising at alarming rates (Elias). These
individuals face prejudiced punitive actions even in the face of minor offenses that would
otherwise warrant less severe disciplinary actions. Nonetheless, this action by the police fosters
the phenomenon of school-to-prison pipeline where students are denied the chance of equitable
access to education in favor of exclusionary policies that drive them towards the criminal justice
system. Prejudiced disciplinary actions, such as suspensions and expulsions, further reinforces
this phenomenon since affected black students experience poor academic performance and
increased likelihood of dropping out of school.
In education, black students are subjected to multiple mechanisms of racial oppression.
For one, there are police practices that favor racial injustice in the sense that the minority groups
face high incarceration rates thereby reducing their chances to receive equal and quality
education. In many school districts across the U.S, police are stationed near schools with
Phillips 2
authority to exercise disciplinary actions against misbehaving students. Notably, African
American children are usually on the receiving end of the inevitably punitive actions. Police are
given “unfettered authority to stop, frisk, question, search and arrest schoolchildren” (Elias).
Personally, I once experienced police use harsh tactics. On this occasion, the police physically
harassed a black student on suspicion that he would engage in violent behavior after an argument
with white peers. Such policies and treatment are, as such, exclusionary, in such a way that they
favor incarceration over education. Likewise, the policies facilitate schools in acting as a
gateway to the criminal justice system.
To further illustrate racism in education, it is critical to note that black students face
school-to-prison pipeline. Unlike their white peers, black students face higher rates of arrests and
subsequent incarceration. Even though black children comprise a mere 9% of children in public
schools across the U.S, “these students make up to 32% of youth in juvenile detention centers”
(Elias). Thus, the policies maintained at school indirectly induce black children into the criminal
justice system and in this process, denies the victims opportunities to education.
Still on racism and black discrimination, racism practices tend to reinforce exclusionary
practices. Black students have faced exclusionary programs based on status quo. Besides
comprising the least number of students enrolled in schools, black students are overrepresented
in exclusionary practices that drive these students out of school. For instance, in 2015/2016
school year, “black boys made up 8 percent of public school enrollment, but they were 25
percent of the boys suspended out of school” (Patrick). Alternatively, exclusion in education is
directly propagated by racism. As Kohli et al. asserts “the current administration is heightening
public discourse of racism and much less attention is paid to mechanisms of racial oppression in
Phillips 3
the field of education”. This evidence provides a direct illustration of how exclusionary
behaviors are propagated against black students in the form of racism.
The school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon based on racism can also be viewed in light of
disproportionate punishment. Black students unlike their white counterparts receive
disproportionate punishment as a result of discrimination and bias. The disproportionate
punishment ranges from suspension to expulsions both of which increase the likelihood of
ending up in juvenile system or incarcerated. Evidence indicates that although black students are
less likely to misbehave than their white peers, they receive disproportionate punishment all the
same (Kohli et al., 1). For instance, in discretionary offenses, such as talking back, defiance
behavior and violation of dress code, black students are more likely to receive disciplinary action
than their white counterparts (Patrick). Hence, unlike their white peers, students from an African
American ethnicity receive disproportionate punitive actions.
Disproportionate punishment can also be explained by severity in punishment. In this
case, black students face more punitive actions compared to their white counterparts. Evidence
illustrates that black students are treated harshly and severely punished. For their first offenses,
young adults from black descent will face extreme punishments, such as suspensions and even
expulsion (Patrick). Likewise, African American children are also more likely to be arrested on
school premises currently than in the previous years. Ominously, these arrests are usually for
nonviolent offenses given that in almost all these cases, the offenders engage in disruptive
behaviors. As Cokley describes, it is “a general rule that black students do not often receive the
benefit of the doubt when they engage in bad or questionable behavior” (Cokley). Furthermore,
report elucidates on this finding revealing that “more than 70% of students arrested in schoolrelated incidents or referred to law enforcement are black or Hispanic” (Elias). Therefore,
Phillips 4
regardless of the offense, the fate of black students seems to be set in a manner that ensures they
face the most punitive disciplinary action unlike their white peers.
On the contrary, the zero tolerance policy is used to justify prejudiced punishments and,
as such, dispute the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon based on racism. This is a one-size-fit
all form of punishment that attempts to illustrate the proportionate nature of school punishments.
On this note, regardless of the offense, this policy mandates that all students receive the same
punishment for every offense whether major or minor. Such stipulation implies that punishment
is not biased but applied equally for all students. Contrary to this notion, black boys still three
times more likely to be suspended from school than white boys. Moreover, “Black students’
(mis)behavior is more often criminalized compared to other students” (Cokley). Patrick similar
agrees that even though “black children do not misbehave more than white peers”, they are more
likely to face disciplinary action. The zero tolerance policy, therefore, fails to justify equal
administration of disciplinary action.
Considering the aforementioned refutable zero tolerance justification, it is important to
assess the implications of school-to-prison pipeline in regard to biased penalties.
Disproportionate punishment faced by black students increases the rate of dropout crisis or
achievement gap. The out-of-class punishments, including suspensions, expulsions and arrests,
increase the likelihood of schoolchildren dropping out school. Likewise, evidence illustrates that
black students who face these penalties experience diminished academic performance. In this
regard, the widened gap in education achievement between black students and white students is
largely attributed to disproportionate punishment. As such, black students who face the
disciplinary actions; score lower on tests, fail their courses and are more likely to drop out of
school. Also, “others progress through school but do not excel; they are less often enrolled in
Phillips 5
honors courses in high school or accepted into competitive four-year colleges” (Bowman, Comer
& Johns). Hence, the impacts of biased punishment against black children are far-reaching
characterized by increased likelihood of dropping out of school or poor academic progress.
To further illustrate the severity of these implications, it can be noted that the worst
implication emanating from discrimination and disproportionate punishment is locking children
out of the classroom and driving them towards the criminal justice system. The biased schoolbased arrests that primarily affect young people from the black community are the most typical
example of exclusionary policy. Arresting these students inevitably limits their chance to receive
education while increasing their chances of winding up in the criminal justice system.
Still on driving students out of the classroom, arrests are similar to suspensions and
expulsions. These punitive measures send a message of unworthiness. Black students are, in
other words, given no second chances to receiving education. Ultimately, black students facing
these circumstances experience low levels of school engagement and increased involvement with
the criminal justice system (Bowman, Comer & Johns). Therefore, when prejudiced schoolbased arrests prevail alongside biased suspension as well as expulsion, a wrong message is sent
to black students. The sense of worthlessness is a factor which inclines black students to be less
involved at school and engage in delinquent behaviors that increases their chances of
The out-of-class disciplinary actions can, however, be addressed by teacher-based best
practices. In this light, teacher training and support is one of the primary ways to address the
concern. Teachers need to be trained on effective discipline measures that focus on behavior
modifications instead of punishments. The student-teacher interactions also place teachers at a
Phillips 6
unique position to be able to carry out best practices that ensure students are kept in class.
Teachers are, in this light, empowered to take more responsive measures than law enforcement to
provide the best chance for completing education. As a result, several practices are proposed
including; “increase the use of positive behavior interventions and supports, create agreements
with police departments and court systems to limit arrests at school, and train teachers on the use
of positive behavior supports for at-risk students” (Elias). However, I think much needs to be
done including partnering with parents to foster student engagement in school. Also, the policies
stationing police within school environments need to be revised and likewise, the arrests for
minor offenses.
Black students are disproportionately being channeled into the criminal justice system by
the police thereby limiting their fortunes for equitable education. Black students face higher rates
of arrests unlike their white counterparts even for minor offenses. Suspensions and expulsions
similarly exacerbate these situations as black children are locked out of the classroom thereby
increasing their chances of engaging in delinquent behaviors and ultimately being incarcerated.
Hence, teachers need to support positive responses and work to limit police presence on school
grounds. Parents’ engagement can further encourage black students to stay in class and, as such,
increase the likelihood of completing education.
Phillips 7
Works Cited
Bowman, Barbara, T, Comer, James, P and Johns, David, J. “Addressing the African American
Achievement Gap: Three Leading Educators Issue a Call to Action.” Young Children,
vol. 73, no. 2, 2018,
Accessed 17 Apr. 2020.
Cokley, Kevin, O. “What it means to be Black in the American Educational System.” 3 Oct.
2016, Accessed 17 Apr. 2020.
Elias, Marilyn. “The School-to-Prison Pipeline.” 2013, Accessed 17 Apr. 2020.
Kohli, Rita, Pizarro, Marcos and Nevarez, Arturo. “The New Racism of K-12 Schools: Centering
Critical Research on Racism.” Review of Research in Education, vol. 41, no. 1, 2017, Accessed
17 Apr. 2020.
Patrick, Kayla. “For Black Children, Attending School is an Act of Racial Justice.” 15 Jan. 2019,
Accessed 17 Apr. 2020.
Annotated Bibliography Instructions
Due, Sunday, May 3rd
An annotated bibliography is a descriptive list of sources that you compile after you
conduct research for a paper. Completing an annotated bibliography is an important
step before beginning to outline and write a research paper, and it allows the instructor
to review your sources to make sure they are relevant and credible. It also encourages
the writer themselves to carefully evaluate each source and consider what role it will
play in their paper. Please complete an annotated bibliography with three sources you
found on your own using the format below. The third source you list must be a scholarly
source from an academic journal. See Week 11 “What is a Scholarly Source?”
At the top of your annotated bibliography, please list:
Your research paper topic.
Your tentative thesis in response to the key question on the prompt (just a draft
for now!).
Then write out the following for each of the three sources you have found for your
paper. (Remember, the texts I provided cannot be one of your three sources for this
assignment.) There are four components for each entry:
MLA Citation
3-4 sentence summary of the source in your own words. Just state the facts (no
1-2 sentences on how you will use this source to support your argument (e.g., to
provide evidence for a claim, to include a statistic, to provide background
information on the topic, to define a key term).
1-2 sentences on how you know it is a credible, strong, relevant source. Refer to
the “CRAAP Test” handout that was posted and use it as your guide here. Show
evidence that you have reviewed it and understand how to apply it.
Source #1:
MLA Citation:
Gladwell, Malcolm. “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will Not Be Tweeted”
The New Yorker, 4 October 2010,
small-change-malcolm-gladwell. Accessed on 15 September 2017.
Summary: In Gladwell’s article, he discusses social media movements of today
and contrasts them with the Civil Rights Movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King
Jr. He generally criticizes social media movements as lacking strong ties, a
hierarchy of leadership, and high-risk activism. He defines online activists as
“slacktivists” and questions their commitment to the cause.
Usage: I will use this source for its statistics and to provide important background
information on the Civil Rights Movement and how social media is a new platform
for activism. I will also use it to support my overall stance that social media
movements aren’t very effective in achieving social justice goals.
Credibility: It is credible because it was published in The New Yorker, and
Malcolm Gladwell is an award-winning, well-respected thinker and writer with
expertise in this topic. Also, his stance is grounded in historical observation and
current event examples.
The paper topic and tentative thesis are listed at the top, and they
are based on the essay 4 prompt instructions.
Source 1 is credible, carefully chosen and relevant to the research
focus. The citations are in correct MLA format and the rest of the
required entry information (summary, usage and credibility) is
thorough and clear.
Source 2 is credible, carefully chosen and relevant to the research
focus. The citations are in correct MLA format and the rest of the
required entry information (summary, usage and credibility) is
thorough and clear.
Source 3 is credible, carefully chosen and relevant to the research
focus. The citations are in correct MLA format and the rest of the
required entry information (summary, usage and credibility) is
thorough and clear. This last source must be from an academic

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