Ending the School to Prison Pipeline, Part 2

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Kids Need Education, Not Incarceration

(Read part 1 of this post here.)

The school-to-prison pipeline overwhelmingly affects poor black and Latino youth with disabilities. Instead of an appropriate education, they face zero tolerance policies that result in suspensions and expulsions that ultimately jettison them from school. Black students with disabilities are three times more likely to be suspended than white students with disabilities.

The current arrangement is expensive. The average daily cost for educating a youth in Chicago Public School is $74.21, while we pay $501.93 per day for youth in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center. The economic choice is clear, we need to get these kids the services they need to learn, grow and become productive adults with hope. And, from the perspective that youth are our future and every human life matters, we have an obligation to give all youth a chance in life.

Over the past year the Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation at Roosevelt University launched a new program in the Juvenile Court building that provides advocacy for youth with disabilities. Through the program, probation officers in Diversion refer youth with disabilities to advocates who work to ensure youth get the services they need in school (and other areas of life). The goal is to help the youth successfully complete their education and not recidivate. If we can help the youth successfully complete their education we will save taxpayers money, and give children a chance in the world.

Darrell surely faces many obstacles and his story is still unfolding, but we know that without education and without addressing his disabilities, we will likely see him going deeper into the juvenile justice system. Together with the Family Resource Center on Disabilities and his grandmother, Darrell may now be able to get the services he needs in order to access his education.

– submitted by Heather Dalmage, PhD
Director, Mansfield Institute for Social Justice and Transformation
Professor of Sociology
Roosevelt University

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