Freddie Allen, NNPA- In schools today, black students get suspended at a rate that is more than triple the rate of their white classmates. As the uneven enforcement of zero tolerance policies disconnect minority students from their schools, juvenile detention centers and, in some cases, adult prisons welcome them with open arms.
Data collected by the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education found that 70 percent of students arrested or handed over to law enforcement were black and latino.
The school-to-prison pipeline has roots in the zero tolerance rhetoric popularized by the war on drugs. In an effort to get tough on school violence, President Bill Clinton signed the Gun Free Schools Act of 1994. Clinton called for more police on school campuses and even funded the project through his Community Oriented Policing Services In Schools Program.
Overall, COPS has contributed nearly a billion dollars to hire more than 6,300 school resource officers and expand the use of metal detectors and surveillance cameras to make schools safer.
But school administrators soon began to use the SROs to discipline students for minor infractions once handled in the principal’s office. Across the nation, police arrested students for shoving matches, writing on desks and being disruptive in class.
According to The Civil Rights Project at the University of California at Los Angeles, Calif., suspensions deprived 17 percent of black students of that fundamental right during the 2009-2010 survey period. During that same period, 5 percent of white students were suspended.
The report said: “Besides the obvious loss of time in the classroom, suspensions matter because they are among the leading indicators of whether a child will drop out of school, and because out-of-school suspension increases a child’s risk for future incarceration.”