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Education on Lockdown: The Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track

NCJ Number
Date Published
March 2005
64 pages
This report examines how zero tolerance policies in schools have resulted in an influx of youth into the juvenile justice system.
The main argument of the report is that schools across America have become “feeder schools” for the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Zero tolerance policies that were enacted in public schools during the juvenile crime wave of the late 1980's have evolved into policies that are unduly harsh and require expulsion or even prosecution for relatively minor offenses. Even non-violent offenses are subject to referral to the juvenile justice system. After an examination of the evolution of these zero tolerance policies, the report turns to a discussion of the changing role of police officers in schools. While the majority of schools across the Nation have increased school police and security measures in an effort to enhance safety, there is little evidence these tactics in fact enhance safety. There is evidence, however, that increasing school surveillance unnecessarily propels more youth into the penal system. The report next considers the disproportionate effect zero tolerance policies have had on children of color. Data are included that illustrate how Black and Latino students are more likely than their White counterparts to be arrested in school, regardless of the school’s racial composition. Profiles of three school districts (Denver, CO; Chicago, IL; and Palm Beach, FL) are presented that illustrate how zero tolerance policies unnecessarily thrust youth into the juvenile and criminal justice systems, especially minority students. The final analysis contends that schools are overreaching when their solutions to school safety involve the inappropriate adoption of law enforcement policies. A handful of solutions are offered, including the expansion of funding for more school guidance counselors and social workers. Figures, tables, endnotes, appendixes