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Segregation 2.0: America's School-to-Prison Pipeline

Kid in Handcuffs
Kid in Handcuffs
Dennis Parker,
Former Director,
ACLU Racial Justice Program
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May 19, 2014

This piece originally appeared at

In an iconic image painted after the Supreme Court’s historic Brown v. Board of Education decision, Norman Rockwell depicted a solitary black girl, dressed in a crisp white dress, walking to class on what is obviously her first day at a newly desegregated school. What sears the image in our memory are her surroundings: four federal marshals, assigned to protect her as she makes her way through a hostile crowd.

Were the painting done today, it might show law enforcement acting in a very different capacity. Instead of leading a black child safely into school, the image might very well be of police officers escorting a child out.

Sixty years after the Brown decision, de facto segregation persists because of a complex web of factors rooted in our nation’s long history of discrimination. But segregation is only one of the issues faced by students of color. Increasingly, minority children are drawn into the so-called school-to-prison pipeline – the phenomenon in which draconian disciplinary policies force students out of the educational system and into the criminal justice system.

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