Title

Bullying and Zero Tolerance Policies: The School to Prison Pipeline

Location

Savannah

Strand #1

Academic Achievement & School Leadership

Strand #2

Safety & Violence Prevention

Relevance

The historical pattern of the implementation of zero-tolerance policies in schools has been a manifestation of institutional racism. It is ironic that the implementation of zero- tolerance policies has declined in prisons while reliance upon the policy has increased in public schools. Lower socio economic students in general and African American males in particular, have been the targets of zero tolerance policies. Administrators and teachers tend to find alternatives in dealing with misbehavior among middle class students, in general, and white students in particular…offering counseling services, one-on-one de-escalation, etc. Reliance upon zero tolerance as a response to bullying has been magnified by the “one-size-fits-all” theoretical grounding associated with the definition of bullying and in the development of policies in response to bullying. When applied, the tactics used in middle and upper class schools are effective in low income school settings as the data demonstrates. However, cultural differences retard the use of sophisticated strategies in lower income schools. Struggling public school budgets, lack of teacher education in the areas of multi-cultural classroom management and urban education compounds the issue and exacerbates reliance upon zero-tolerance policies to eliminate African American males deemed “disruptive or disrespectful” from the classroom.

Brief Program Description

African American males are populating the American prison system at an alarming rate. A study of zero-tolerance policies as they are implemented in low-income public schools reveals that this method of controlling bullying behaviors is ineffective. Zero-tolerance policies are causing increases in drop-out rates and channeling African American males into correctional facilities.

Summary

In this current historical epoch, we find at least two topics that intersect in the popular media and the annals of academic research. These are bullying and the metaphor of the "school to prison pipeline." The latter focuses upon the disproportionate number of African American males incarcerated in the U.S. and the second is the policy of Zero-Tolerance as an administrative response to bullying in our schools. The present paper is based upon research that suggests patterns of institutional racism underlying the Zero Tolerance policy. These patterns of institutional racism are particularly significant because they facilitate a "pushout" phenomenon in schools which contributes to the channeling of African American males into the prison system.

Evidence

: There is a significant body of empirical research suggesting that patterns of institutional racism have been associated with aero-tolerance as it relates to bullying. Disturbing statistics demonstrate time and time again a disproportionality of expulsion and suspension based on race and socio-economic status. “Studies of school suspension have consistently documented an over-representation of low-income students in the use of that consequence.” (Brantlinger, 1991; Skiba, et al., 1997; Wu et al., 1982) Brantlinger reported as early as 1992 that “both high- and low-income adolescents felt that disciplinary practices were unfairly weighted against poor students. While high-income students were more likely to receive more mild and moderate consequences, low-income students reported receiving the most severe consequences…i.e. Standing in the hallway all day, personal belongings removed, forced to attend school in a monitored area such as school office. There has been an empirical report that a continual overrepresentation of minorities constitutes the majority of American students suspended or expelled. Specifically, African-American males as early as 1975 were suspended at a rate of two to three times more than any other American demographic attending public school. While 29 states suspended over five percent of their total black enrollment, only four states suspended over five percent of white students. “Since that report, racial disproportionality in the use of school suspension has been a highly consistent finding.” (Costenbader & Markson, 1994; Glackman et al., 1978; Kaeser, 1979; Lietz & Gregory, 1978; Massachusetts Advocacy Center, 1986; McCarthy & Hoge, 1987;McFadden, Marsh, Price, & Hwang, 1992; Skiba et al.,1997; Taylor & Foster, 1986; Thornton & Trent, 1988; Wu et al, 1982.) Black students were also exposed more frequently to more punitive disciplinary strategies, such as corporal punishment (Gregory, 1995; Shaw & Braden, 1990), and expulsions. “How Many Studies Does It Take?” a blog/article by Alice Pettway, 2012, recognizes the “school to prison pipeline” is an accurate description of today’s inner city schools. The Civil Rights Project (CRP) at the University of California- Los Angeles- continued to study the racial discrepancies in suspensions/expulsions from 2010 to 2012. After analyzing data from approximately 7,000 school districts across the country, the authors found that one in every six black students were suspended during the 2009-2010 school year. This was alarming when compared to the statistics of other racial/ethnic groups. Only one in thirteen American Indian students, one in fourteen Latino students, one in twenty white students, and one in fifty Asian students experienced out-of-school suspensions for misbehaviors meriting zero-tolerance policy punishments. Black students were also suspended repeatedly, a trend not discovered among the other ethnic groups. According to the CRP data, race is not the sole risk factor. The report also shows “that when disability and gender are combined with race, the risk for suspension skyrockets. In some districts, suspension rates for male students of color with disabilities sometimes exceeded 33%.” Bowditch, 1993, found that 40% of school suspensions were due to repeat offenders. Tobin, et al, 1996 also studied recidivism rates of suspended school children. Tobin and Bowditch, 1993, found that 40% of school suspensions were due to repeat offenders. Tobin, et al, 1996 also studied recidivism rates of suspended school children. Tobin discovered that “for some students, suspension primarily acts as a reinforcer of negative behaviors, rather than a punisher.” Analysis of the data from the national High School and Beyond survey revealed that 31% of sophomores who dropped out of school had been suspended prior to drop out, as compared to a suspension rate of only 10% of their graduating counterparts. A re-analysis (Wehlage and Rutter, 1986) emerged, claiming multiple factors including poor academics, low SES, and engagement were among additional predictors of drop-out rates. Michael Thomas, of the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center, stated in an interview with The New York Times, “We have enough data to show it’s more than just poverty and any greater misbehavior. My guess is its very subtle interactional effects between some teachers and students.” Intentional or not, this tendency restricts the opportunities of black students. (2012) Mayer and Leone (1999) discovered through in-depth data analysis of studies on school violence that a student/teacher reliance on school rules was far more effective than heightened school security measures that include zero-tolerance policy implementation. Mayer and Leone re-analyzed data from the 1995 School Crime Supplement to the National Crime Victimization Survey. This was comprised of 9,854 interviews of students aged 12-19 throughout the United. Students were interviewed about their personal knowledge and experiences with violence, as well as their understanding of school rules and fear of being victimized. The results pointed to an increased awareness and understanding by teachers of student issues to be a crucial element in school safety. Much to the dismay of the zero-tolerance/school security proponents, the increase of harsh measures backfired, as they continue to do decades later. Administrations relying on zero-tolerance policies, metal detectors, locker searches, and security guard presence have fostered an even more violent school environment with an increased level of fear among the student population. As one student put it: “When they suspend you, you get in more trouble cuz you’re out on the street…and that’s what happened to me once. I got into trouble one day cause there was a party…and the arrested everybody at the party….I got in trouble more at school because I got arrested and everything.” Another student interviewed by Thorson (1996), while in detention states: “I figure if I’m going to get in trouble, I’m gonna annoy him (teacher) as much as I can. I’m already going to get in trouble, he deserve it, if he’s gonna keep singling me out. So I get on his nerves! If you know you’re already getting into trouble, why shut up?” Additional qualitative data and references available.

Format

Individual Presentation

Biographical Sketch

  1. Dr. Kelli Jette- Professor, University of Cincinnati- School of Education. Teaching experience began in 2006, in the public school system. Dr. Jette continued teaching and instructing at U.C., where she currently supervises graduate assistants and oversees all human development courses and educational psychology courses. Dr. Jette most enjoyed teaching emotional/behaviorally challenged students in inner-city Cincinnati, Ohio.

Keyword Descriptors

zero tolerance, prison to pipeline, African American, inner city, urban education

Presentation Year

2015

Start Date

3-3-2015 10:15 AM

End Date

3-3-2015 11:30 AM

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Mar 3rd, 10:15 AM Mar 3rd, 11:30 AM

Bullying and Zero Tolerance Policies: The School to Prison Pipeline

Savannah

African American males are populating the American prison system at an alarming rate. A study of zero-tolerance policies as they are implemented in low-income public schools reveals that this method of controlling bullying behaviors is ineffective. Zero-tolerance policies are causing increases in drop-out rates and channeling African American males into correctional facilities.