School to Prison Pipeline: Getting PoC on a Track to Success.

From the Classroom to Prison:

Firstly, it starts with young PoC so parents, please prepare yourselves through awareness. The school to prison pipeline is real. We have to be intentional in readying our kids for college and life beyond school. These habitual failure mills are preparing PoC for prisons and a life of despair.

Moreover, the identification of black males as Special Education students is alarming. Special Education is a two-sided coin. By two sides, I mean parents are too identifying and recommending their children for special education.  They do this because of the financial benefits that come with raising a kid that receives additional services. That statement messed me up. I never thought of it this way. My heart still won’t allow me to believe this is true.

ADHD Diagnosis Must Stop:

Unfortunately, ADHD is a real problem.  This diagnosis haunts PoC. It allows folks to take the easy way out.  It’s done without determining the real reasons why students aren’t learning. Let’s say a parent medicates their child (which I am not recommending at all) because I’m not a doctor. However, post medication, the student still has difficulty learning. Then what? As educators, we have to put our prescription pads away and teach these students. We will reach them.

Consequently, Special Education when classes are disproportionately students of color and male, I start formulating questions immediately. For those of you visiting schools in hopes of replicating best practices, please know this isn’t a best practice at all. It may be one of the worst practices in education. Ensure all students receive an adequate education and they are ready to be productive society members.

Methods like overpopulating special education classes with black males are the infancy stages of the school to prison pipeline.

The Hard Data Facts About Targeting PoC:

By and large, evidence is strong that students with particular education disabilities are similarly targeted for school discipline.  The racial disparity exists across special education student populations as well (Rivkin, 2010).

Students of color are disproportionate in the diagnosis of specific special education categories. Categories such as mental retardation and severe emotional disturbances (Harry & Klinger, 2006), thus causing some to conclude that referral bias from school personnel is a causal factor (Adams & Meiners, 2014).

Similarly, minority students are the students that are most affected by “Zero Tolerance” school disciplinary policies. Likewise, the U.S. Department of Education identified in 2012 that in school districts with more than 50,000 students. African-American students represented 24%of enrollment but 35%of on-campus arrests, with lower, but still different rates for Hispanic students (McCurdy, 2014).

Statistics from Urban Cities:

Notwithstanding New Orleans, LA, the Orleans Parish School Board’s expulsions under zero-tolerance policies were 100%, Black.  67% of their school-related arrests being Black students. The RSD-Algiers Charter School Association had 75% of their expelled students without educational services black. Furthermore, 100% of their expulsions under zero-tolerance policies. 100% of their school-related arrests were all Black students.

Systematically, in St. Louis, MO schools, the Normandy School District’s 98% Black student population drew in the following: A high percentage students who received more than one out-of-school suspension. All of those who were expelled without educational services and 100% of those who were referred to law enforcement. In Missouri’s Ritenour School District, 67% of Black students vs. 33% white students were assigned to law enforcement. Above are expanded statistics pulled from the Civil Rights Data Collection, with the latest results from 2009. The school to prison pipeline is real.

Training your Staff:

Moreover, active professional development for teachers and administrators on improving classroom management and school climate has improved staff retention, student instructional time, and student engagement in learning (Browers & Tornic, 2000).

Unfortunately, when school personnel lacks training and resources, student academic achievement is lowered, inappropriate individual education referrals are increased, and references for student disciplinary sanctions become significantly greater (Donavan & Cross, 2002).

Restorative Justice:

• For the last few years, studies have used improved research designs and found continued positive outcomes for restorative justice programming, although a majority of these reviews are still only descriptive, making this a promising and not evidence-based course of practice (Minkos, Latham & Sugai, 2014).

• This  provides an example and context, over two academic school years the , four high schools in the Chicago Public School system that had implemented varying degrees of restorative programming including mediation, peer juries, conferences, and peace circles found up to 80% reductions in student misconduct and arrests and improvements in attendance (Hereth, Kaba, Meiniers, & Wallace, 2012).

For you Visual Learners:

Some people are visual learners, see video link:

Key Questions to ask folks that advocate for zero-tolerance school policies are as follows:

1. What exactly are these folks to do without an education?
2. What are their options?


Author: Raymond J. Ankrum, Sr.

Mr. Ankrum is the current Superintendent of the Riverhead Charter School. Mr. Ankrum has gained notoriety as a school turnaround expert. He is enthusiastic about helping students from low (SES) find ways to end generational poverty through educational advocacy. If you believe PoC can end generational poverty by exercising educational opportunities, you have an ally in @Mr_Ankrum.

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