Resources: Stopping the School to Prison Pipeline

Stopping the School to Prison Pipeline

Current Law & Policy

  • In the nine years since Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), startling growth has occurred in what is often described as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” – the use of educational policies and practices that have the effect of pushing students, especially students of color and students with disabilities, out of schools and toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

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  • In this March 2010 report, ELC proposes legal and policy changes that will ensure that alternative programs are adequately supported and monitored; that their services are consistently comparable to those offered to other Pennsylvania students; that students are placed in these programs only when their needs justify the assignment; that the programs operate in a manner that is consistent with applicable federal and state laws; and that, in a number of other respects, programs meet the high standards that the state has set for all of Pennsylvania’s public education programs – and justify the taxpayers’ investment of funds.

     

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  • This 2009 ELC handbook for attorneys and advocates who represent students examines the law on school discipline in Pennsylvania, which derives from the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions; federal and state statutes, regulations, and case law; and policies of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, school districts, and individual schools.

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  • This July 2009 Basic Education Circular (BEC) provides guidance regarding placement of students in Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) Programs. It also provides guidance on AEDY program requirements to ensure that students in these programs are provided appropriate academic and behavioral support services.

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  • Youth who are adjudicated delinquent frequently encounter problems in obtaining appropriate education services in placement, as well as when they are released and reintegrated into their communities. This 2009 Toolkit from the Education Law Center provides the basic information and resources needed to help juvenile probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals overcome these problems.

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Stopping the School to Prison Pipeline

Analysis & Research

  • A new report recommending strategies for policy makers to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and address disparities in school discipline was issued by the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in April 2021. The report, which draws on testimony from 20 local and national experts at two public briefing sessions, is called “Disparate and Punitive Impact of Exclusionary Practices on Students of Color, Students with Disabilities and LGBTQ Students in Pennsylvania Public Schools.”

    The report presents data illustrating the discriminatory nature of exclusionary discipline and its disruptive and harmful impact. Recommendations include banning exclusionary discipline for nonviolent offenses, implementing positive behavioral supports and trauma-informed restorative practices, improving data collection, and increasing funding to devote to creating positive school climates. ELC executive director Deborah Gordon Klehr served as a member of the advisory committee.

    Read the report here.

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  • Despite prohibiting the suspension of Kindergarten students, the School District of Philadelphia continues to suspend students in first through fifth grades at alarming rates. (more…)

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  • In October 2015, the Education Law Center submitted comments to the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) on their draft of a proposed policy announcement: “Reduction of Suspensions and Expulsions in Early Childhood Programs in Pennsylvania (15-#1)” [.doc]. The draft announcement was based, in part, on the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education policy guidance on the issue, released in December 2014: Policy Statement on Expulsion and Suspension in Early Childhood Settings.

    ELC’s comments, available below, were informed by our expertise advocating for the rights of the most vulnerable children birth through age twenty one and our extensive experience listening to the hundreds of children and families we have served each year for the past four decades. These public comments are part of ELC’s larger body of work focused on reducing exclusionary discipline that is disproportionately used on vulnerable populations and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline that pushes at-risk youth into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

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  • In Unlocking the Door to Learning: Trauma-Informed Classrooms & Transformational Schools, ELC Senior Staff Attorney Maura McInerney, Esq. and Amy McKlindon, M.S.W. discuss the impact of trauma on learning and what schools and educators can do to create a trauma-informed learning environment.

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  • ELC Staff Attorney David Lapp’s recommendations on charter school legislation being considered by Pennsylvania State Legislature in June, 2015. Discussion includes a comparison of HB 530, PN 569 and SB 856, PN 968.

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  • Senior Staff Attorney Maura McInerney provided testimony to the Pennsylvania Senate’s Education Committee at their June 9th hearing on truancy. She discussed how punitive responses to truancy can be ineffectual and counterproductive and the importance of school-level interventions to improve attendance.

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  • On Feb. 2, 2015, the Education Law Center submitted comments on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Every Child Ready for College or Career Act of 2015 Discussion Draft.

    The reauthorization of the ESEA offers an opportunity to update our nation’s primary federal education law to build upon the lessons learned since the last reauthorization. The Education Law Center urges Congress to reauthorize the ESEA in 2015 and address a number of priorities, including: Maintain a strong federal role in promoting equity and accountability; encourage states to fund schools equitably; protect Title I dollars for the poorest schools and districts; and act to end school pushout and the school-to-prison pipeline.

    Read ELC’s full comments.

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  • This 2010 ELC research brief provides a detailed examination of School-Wide Positive Behavior Support (PBS), a research-based, highly effective, approach to creating, teaching, and reinforcing students’ social, emotional, and academic learning skills that improves and sustains academic achievement and mental and emotional wellbeing of all students.

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  • In the nine years since Congress reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) as the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), startling growth has occurred in what is often described as the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” – the use of educational policies and practices that have the effect of pushing students, especially students of color and students with disabilities, out of schools and toward the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

    Download PDF

  • In this March 2010 report, ELC proposes legal and policy changes that will ensure that alternative programs are adequately supported and monitored; that their services are consistently comparable to those offered to other Pennsylvania students; that students are placed in these programs only when their needs justify the assignment; that the programs operate in a manner that is consistent with applicable federal and state laws; and that, in a number of other respects, programs meet the high standards that the state has set for all of Pennsylvania’s public education programs – and justify the taxpayers’ investment of funds.

     

    Download PDF

Stopping the School to Prison Pipeline

Fact Sheets

  • This fact sheet applies to young children in all preschool settings in Pennsylvania, including child care and daycare centers, Early Intervention, Head Start, private academic schools (PDE-licensed preschools), and school district pre-kindergarten. If one of these school settings seeks to suspend or expel your child, here are some things you should know about your rights.

    You can learn more about those rights here.

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  • This toolkit was developed to assist families and advocates to respond to efforts to suspend or expel students. It applies to all public schools (including charter schools) in Pennsylvania. If a school district or charter school seeks to suspend or expel your child or send them to an alternative education for disruptive youth (AEDY) setting, you may find this toolkit helpful.

    Learn more here.

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  • In January 2022, the Pennsylvania General Assembly enacted Act 1 of 2022 (Act 1) (24 P.S. § 13-1331.1), which seeks to remove educational and graduation barriers for students who experience “education instability” due to homelessness, foster care, involvement in the juvenile justice, or court-ordered placements. Act 1 of 2022 seeks to address these barriers and promote timely high school graduation and equal access to school engagement for these students.

    You can learn more here.

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  • Children involved in the juvenile justice systems have the right to a free public education, like all public school students. These rights are not lost because of system involvement, and additional protections are in place to ensure access to a quality public education. Children and youth in the juvenile justice system may need strong advocates because they are among the most educationally underserved of all student populations. As a result of multiple school changes and placement in on-grounds schools, students who are system-involved often fall through the cracks.

    This fact sheet highlights important protections and addresses ways to support students to be successful.

    To learn more, click here.

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  • Children involved in the foster care system have the right to a free public education, like all public school students. These rights are not lost because of system involvement, and additional protections are in place to ensure access to a quality public education. Children and youth in the foster care system may need strong advocates because they are among the most educationally underserved of all student populations. As a result of multiple school changes and placement in on-grounds schools, students who are system-involved often fall through the cracks.

    This fact sheet highlights important protections and addresses ways to support students to be successful.

    To learn more, click here.

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  • This fact sheet is intended for Magisterial District Justices (MDJs) and other judges to use when adjudicating truancy matters under Pennsylvania’s compulsory school attendance law. It highlights key changes to the law in light of Act 138 of 2016, which substantially changed the truancy provisions of Pennsylvania’s Public School Code.

    Read the guide here.

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  • This fact sheet describes the process for determining if your child, as an English learner (EL), is appropriately and legally placed in an Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) program and, if not, how to return your child to an appropriate placement in your local school district.

    To learn more, click here.

    To learn more about general rights applicable to all students who may be placed in AEDY, see our Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth fact sheet.

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  • This fact sheet describes the process for determining if your child with disabilities is appropriately and legally placed in an Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth (AEDY) program and, if not, how to return your child to an appropriate placement in your local school district in the least restrictive environment. The fact sheet outlines special rights applicable to your child as a child with a disability ― that is, a child who has or is eligible for an IEP or Section 504 Plan.

    To learn more, click here.

    To learn more about general rights applicable to all students who may be placed in AEDY, see our Alternative Education for Disruptive Youth fact sheet.

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  • This fact sheet addresses your child’s rights if:
    • A school wants to move your child to a different education program because of discipline;
    • Your child currently attends an alternative school or program for disciplinary reasons; or
    • You are seeking to have your child return to a regular classroom from an alternative program.

    Click here to learn more.

    You may also be interested in our guides on Alternative Education for Students with Disabilities or Alternative Education for Multilingual Learners.

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  • This fact sheet provides information for parents and guardians on the rules and procedures for student suspensions in all public schools, including charter schools, in Pennsylvania.

    A suspension is an exclusion from school for one to ten school days in a row. Even a suspension for part of a day constitutes one day of suspension. A suspension may be imposed by a principal or other person in charge of a school.

    If a school district or charter school seeks to suspend your child, you can learn more about what to do here.

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  • This FAQ explains a law known as Act 110, which concerns students who are convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault. The law became effective on January 3, 2021, and does not apply to convictions or adjudications occurring prior to that effective date.

    This state law was enacted to protect student survivors/victims of sexual assault, and it applies to all public schools. The law requires a student convicted or adjudicated delinquent of sexual assault against a student in the same school entity to be transferred to another school, placed in alternative education for disruptive youth, or expelled from the same school entity under certain circumstances.

    You can learn more here.

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  • Act 26 is a Pennsylvania law which requires the expulsion for at least one year of any student who possesses a weapon on school property, at a school function, or going to and from school.  Many students have faced expulsion as a result of this law. Review the complete fact sheet for more information.

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  • The Education Law Center and Juvenile Law Center have developed a fact sheet to explain important educational decision maker rules, including Pennsylvania’s Juvenile Court Procedural Rules (Rules 1147 and 147) requiring judges to appoint an “Educational Decision Maker” for children who have no parent or guardian to make education decisions for them, or when a court concludes that appointing an EDM is in the best interest of a child.

    In addition, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, school districts have a duty to appoint a “surrogate parent” for children with special education needs under specific circumstances.

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  • A fact sheet providing information for parents and guardians on the rules and procedures for student expulsions from school district and charter schools.

    While public schools have wide latitude to create rules, they must follow their own rules. Thus, a school can only expel a student for a violation of a school rule if the school has officially adopted and distributed the rule. School rules should be listed in a published Code of Student Conduct that should be given to all students and parents.

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Stopping the School to Prison Pipeline

Trainings

Stopping the School to Prison Pipeline

Professional Toolkits

  • This 2009 ELC handbook for attorneys and advocates who represent students examines the law on school discipline in Pennsylvania, which derives from the United States and Pennsylvania Constitutions; federal and state statutes, regulations, and case law; and policies of the Pennsylvania Department of Education, school districts, and individual schools.

    Download PDF

  • Youth who are adjudicated delinquent frequently encounter problems in obtaining appropriate education services in placement, as well as when they are released and reintegrated into their communities. This 2009 Toolkit from the Education Law Center provides the basic information and resources needed to help juvenile probation officers and other juvenile justice professionals overcome these problems.

    Download PDF