The SPLC joined with the U.S. Department of Justice to host a conference in Birmingham, Alabama, today to focus on reforming racially discriminatory school discipline practices that often push children needlessly into the justice system.
The one-day conference attracted education and law enforcement officials from across Alabama who will explore strategies to keep children in schools and out of jail cells.
Each year, millions of children across the country are pushed out of school and, frequently, into the criminal justice system through discipline practices that punish them severely for minor misbehavior.
The impact of the school-to-prison pipeline falls most heavily on minority children and children with disabilities. In Alabama, for example, African-American children are more than three times as likely as their white peers to be suspended, expelled or arrested in school.
“No child who is disciplined for minor misbehavior at school should be on the fast road to being put behind bars, but the school-to-prison pipeline is a reality for far too many of our young people,” said Ebony Howard, associate legal director for the SPLC. “This conference brings together stakeholders who have something to contribute at every stage of the pipeline to discuss ways to prevent so many kids from being pushed into the criminal justice system.”
Panel discussions, including one led by Howard, will focus on successful school discipline models that hold students accountable without pushing them out of school; legal strategies to limit youth court-involvement; and improved access to educational services for children held in detention and correctional facilities.