Most of us agree that access to quality education is one of the most important things we can do to ensure the well-being of Nebraska’s children and our state as a whole. Opportunities to learn and build skills are an essential part of preparing youth for healthy, productive adulthoods.
Too often, however, children are pushed out of the school system through suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to the court system. The cumulative sum of these practices, often referred to as “the school to prison pipeline,” has been shown to have a negative impact on students, schools, and academic achievement.
When a student is suspended, they become less likely to graduate on time and more likely to repeat a grade, drop out without earning a diploma, and become involved with the juvenile justice system.
Studies have also shown that schools with a higher reliance on school exclusion as a form of discipline actually score lower on academic achievement tests, even when controlling for socioeconomic and demographic factors.
According to the 2013 Kids Count in Nebraska Report, during the 2011-2012 school year alone:
- 963 Nebraska students in grades 7-12 were expelled; and
- 14,794 Nebraska students were suspended.
An analysis of Nebraska suspensions by the federal government further revealed that school exclusion disproportionately impacts youth of color, especially African American and Native American youth.
With the start of the school year only a few days away, it’s an important time to remember that there’s more that we can do to end the school to prison pipeline and keep our children on the path to a bright future.
Here are a few suggestions on where Nebraska should start:
- Better data collection and reporting: Most states that have had success at reducing suspensions and expulsions have created a robust data collection and reporting system at the state, school district, and individual school level. A recent report by the Council of State Governments highlighted the importance of data in implementing change and identifying schools in need of the greatest assistance.
- Implementing more effective responses to student behavior: Instead of relying on school exclusion and zero tolerance policies, exclusion from the classroom should be a last resort. Schools should be encouraged to adopt models that correct student behavior in more effective ways, that keep youth in school.
- Adequate resources for schools: School administrators and teachers need the resources and training to effectively respond to and prevent challenging student behavior.