The ACLU’s education work centers on a disturbing trend called the school-to-prison pipeline, a set of policies in our nation’s public schools that pushes an alarming number of kids into the juvenile and criminal justice systems when they most need support from their schools and communities. We believe that this trend is reflective of our country’s prioritization of incarceration over education. It is made worse as resources for public schools are decreased. From inadequate counseling to an overreliance on school-based police officers to enforce schools’ harsh zero-tolerance policies, many students, overwhelmingly students of color, face very adult consequences for adolescent mistakes.

Through strategic litigation and advocacy campaigns, the ACLU Racial Justice Program works to promote initiatives that help ensure access to high-quality education and facilities for all students and to challenge policies that criminalize students for minor misbehavior in school.

The Racial Justice Program has active cases and ongoing court-enforced settlement agreements challenging the discrimination, segregation, and criminalization of children of color in public school districts across the country, including New York City; Hartford, Connecticut; Salt Lake City, Utah; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Winner, South Dakota. We also file amicus curiae or “friend of the court” briefs in major cases that challenge affirmative action policies.


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