School-to-Prison Pipeline

School-to-Prison Pipeline

The ACLU is committed to challenging the "school to prison pipeline," a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, they are isolated, punished and pushed out.

"Zero-tolerance" policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in school lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school. Students of color are especially vulnerable to push-out trends and the discriminatory application of discipline.

The ACLU believes that children should be educated, not incarcerated. We are working to challenge numerous policies and practices within public school systems and the juvenile justice system that contribute to the school to prison pipeline.


Gone Too Far: Our Kids in Handcuffs

Meet Kyle Thompson. Kyle is part of a national trend where children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

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Stories of the School to Prison Pipeline

The effects of the school-to-prison-pipeline are both damaging and unfair. These policies have contributed to the over-criminalization of the classroom, whereby small infractions that in the past would have led to a trip to the principal’s office and a sharp warning or detention now become the basis of out-of-school suspension, expulsion, or, increasingly, a trip to the police station. Read more about how these polices have impacted the lives of young people in Mississippi and Utah.


Dennis Parker

Dennis Parker, Director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program

Dennis Parker is director of the ACLU Racial Justice Program, leading its efforts in combating discrimination and addressing other issues with a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Parker oversees work to combat the “School-to-Prison” pipeline, the profiling of airline passengers subjected to searches and wrongfully placed on watch lists and the racial bias in the criminal justice system.


[Infographic] School-to-Prison Pipeline

School-to-Prison Pipeline

School-to-Prison-Pipeline Infographic: A snapshot of recent data on school discipline shows that zero tolerance policies disproportionately impact Black and brown students.


What is the School-to-Prison Pipeline?

This factsheet provides an overview of the phenomenon labelled the school-to-prison pipeline, used to describe the complex interaction of policies and practices that push students out of the educational system and into the criminal and juvenile justice systems.


Blogs & Commentary

Read the most recent blogs on policies and practices, including the overly strict enforcement of draconian zero tolerance policies, increased use of suspension and expulsion for younger and younger students, and referrals to the police.


ACLU Racial Justice Cases

Learn more about the ACLU’s litigation challenging the school-to-prison-pipeline and other racial justice issues in schools.

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