New EJS Report: Breaking The Chains 2: The Preschool-To-Prison Pipeline Epidemic

The increasing trend of suspending students is part of a phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline (“STPP”). Equal Justice Society’s previous publication, “Breaking The Chains”, explains the STPP as the process by which at-risk high school and middle school students are pushed out of learning environments and into the juvenile justice system.

Our new report, “Breaking The Chains 2: The Preschool-To-Prison Pipeline Epidemic”, aims to broaden the scope of this inquiry by detailing how disproportionate discipline in preschool through 3rd grade can inhibit a child’s social development and academic success.

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Here we will refer to disproportionate discipline in early education that pushes students out of school as the preschool-to-prison pipeline (“PTPP”). While the pipeline metaphor suggests that students are transferred directly from the classroom to a jail cell, the path to prison is far more complex. Relatively few youth are arrested in schools; instead, most who are disciplined are given out-of-school suspension, in-school suspension, or other school punishment. These consequences increase the likelihood of dropping out or being pushed out, which in turn increases the likelihood of incarceration– about one in every 10 male high school dropouts is in jail or juvenile detention, compared with one in 35 young male high school graduates.

In this new report, we consider the mechanisms that lead to the harsh discipline of preschoolers and K-3 students in addition to examining the effects this discipline has on students’ future academic success.

Download the full report (PDF)