Likely without exception, most of us would agree with the saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Undoubtedly, those of us who are practitioners in the fields of Education or Juvenile Justice are reminded of this truth on a daily basis. Much research is emerging on the correlation between zero tolerance discipline policies and practices and what is now commonly referred to as the school to prison pipeline.

In fact, a recent study by the Warren Institute on Law and Social Policy called Exclusionary School Discipline found that a student who is suspended (either in-school or out-of-school) is three times more likely to enter the juvenile justice system within the following calendar year. In contemplating that study, one participant in a recent training questioned whether it is the behavior or the suspension that leads to this unfortunate induction. Regardless, we must ask ourselves how school discipline responses may escalate future challenging behaviors that land our students in the criminal justice system.

Drawing on another familiar saying, “It takes a village”, community partnerships are being increasingly identified as critical to ending the school to prison pipeline. In particular, collaborations between schools and juvenile justice systems create significant opportunities for prevention and therefore, result in dramatic decreases in the number of students who move all too seamlessly from the school system into the juvenile justice system. The Juvenile Justice Information Exchange’s August OP-ED piece Juvenile Justice and Education Partnerships: Change Must Begin Now makes it clear that we must accelerate collaboration efforts to support the success of our youth, citing a growing number of communities who are doing just that. Restorative Practices often provides the key to achieving this critical task, through simultaneous and coordinated implementation in schools and juvenile diversion programs.

(Written by Catherine Childs, Senior Associate)

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