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Family and Children's
Resource Program

Vol. 21, No. 1
January 2016

New Hanover County Acts End to "School-to-Prison Pipeline"

Have you heard of the school-to-prison pipeline? This is shorthand for policies and practices that push K-12 students in the U.S., especially those most at risk, out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The following are some factors seen as contributing to this problem:

  1. Inadequate resources in public schools;

  2. Zero-tolerance policies and inappropriate use of suspensions and expulsions; and

  3. School-based arrests, which stem in part from increased reliance on police (e.g., school resource officers) rather than teachers and administrators to maintain discipline (ACLU, n.d.).

The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education are concerned about the pipeline and are encouraging States and communities to assess their performance and take action to foster safe and productive learning environments in every classroom (US Dept. of Ed., 2011).

Inter-Agency Agreement
New Hanover County, NC is making a concerted effort to do just that. November 2015 saw the signing of that county's Inter-Agency Governance Agreement on the Handling of School Offenses. This agreement brings schools, law enforcement, justice system, DSS, and other government and community partners together to change disciplinary practices in New Hanover County Schools.

Under the agreement, schools must respond to student offenses using a graduated framework; law enforcement and the courts will not be involved unless absolutely necessary.

Although this is the first such agreement in our state, this approach has produced notable results elsewhere. Since 2003, when Clayton County, Georgia began a push to reduce school referrals to the juvenile and criminal justice systems, the county's daily juvenile detention rate has declined by 80% while its graduation rate has steadily improved (Dalton, 2015).

Check out the following if you are interested in learning more: