While on the campaign trail in Harlem, Hillary Clinton proposed spending $2 billion to end the “school-to-prison pipeline,” Politico reports.
Clinton called for the creation of School Climate Support Teams, comprised of social workers, behavioral specialists and educational practitioners, tasked with turning around at-risk students and preventing them entering the pipeline.
“This is not just an education issue. This is a civil rights issue, and we cannot ignore it any longer. The bottom line is this: We need to be sending our kids to college. We need a cradle-to-college pipeline, not sending them into court and into prison,” she said, according to Politico.
Clinton’s proposal is one of several alternatives to the zero tolerance policies that push children out of school and into the criminal justice system.
As the New York Times noted, the harsh approach to discipline disproportionately affects Black students, particularly boys. In a case study reported in the newspaper, African-Americans comprised just 18 percent of the student population in the survey, but 35 percent of those suspended once, and 46 percent of multiple suspensions.
There’s growing disapproval of traditional discipline. The American Academy of Pediatrics announced its opposition in 2013 to zero tolerance policies. It recommends suspending students only on a case-by-case basis. The academy points to research that demonstrates its ineffectiveness and long-term harm, often pushing at-risk students over the edge instead of rescuing them.
Restorative justice programs are an increasingly popular alternative, focusing on rehabilitation instead of punishment. It involves a variety of methods to understand and address the underlying issues that caused misbehavior.
Oakland’s Unified School District conducted a 10-year restorative justice pilot program. Suspensions and absenteeism declined at the schools, and graduation rates increased. Consequently, the district announced a plan last year to expand the program into all of its schools, according to the San Jose Mercury News.
But there’s opposition to alternative school discipline methods, despite the positive results.
Paul Sperry of the Hoover Institution writes in the New York Post that New York City schools are using the “touchy-feely therapy” of restorative justice. He’s unconvinced that there are fewer infractions in the city’s schools and at other urban school districts that use restorative justice.
Instead, he claims there’s an increase in disruptions and violence, and points to cases in which teachers are complaining.
Sperry adds, “Politicians can praise the new system, but it’s teachers who must deal with the disruptive and sometimes violent results.”
Despite the critics, school districts continue to embrace restorative justice. The San Diego Unified School District is sold on its effectiveness and plans to further implement the method.
SOURCE: Politico | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty
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