The School-to-Prison Pipeline

Each time I would hear, “slide your trays down” during lunch duty at my former school I would cringe because it was the exact phrase I had used with the inmates that I worked with as a Correctional Officer in a maximum security facility.  In fact, there are many similarities to some of the processes used in the public schools systems and the prisons.  For instance, when a student breaks a major rule the teacher writes a referral and submits it to the appropriate grade level administrator who then decides an appropriate punishment for the child.  Correctional officers take similar step when they discipline inmates.

NEA Today recently published an article titled, “The School-to-Prison Pipeline: time to shut it down” written by Mary Flannery which highlights the long term effects of suspending and expelling students.  According to Flannery (2015), “the practice of pushing kids out of school and toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems has become known as the “school-to-prison pipeline” and in 2013, NEA members and leaders made a formal commitment to close it”. Over the last few years there has been an outcry over the number of suspensions in minority students and students with disabilities.  In 2012 local districts in the Richmond, Virginia area had extremely high suspension rates amongst minority students.  Many districts have made some achievements in reducing their suspension rates however; the rates of suspensions for minority students remain high. Flannery (2015) believes that suspensions are “the number-one predictor— more than poverty—of whether children will drop out of school and walk down a road that includes greater likelihood of unemployment, reliance on social-welfare programs, and imprisonment”.  Reducing the suspension rate is an important step to closing the achievement gaps.   I believe that is it time to think outside of the box and begin to use our community to help our schools with this dilemma.


Flannery, M. (2015, January 5). The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Time to Shut it  Down                 NEA Today. Retrieved April 15, 2015, from                             

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