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“The school-to-prison pipeline”

Read this.

When it comes to discipline, Aldine ISD doesn’t mess around. The large suburban district expelled more students last year — 525 — than any other district in Texas, despite being a fraction of the size of large urban districts, according to state data.

Aldine boots nearly three times as many students as neighboring Houston ISD — which expelled 181 students in 2008-09 — even though its enrollment, about 67,000, is only a third the size. The forced-out students get processed into either the Harris County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program or one of two “very strict” special schools run by the Harris County Department of Education, an unusual agency that provides services to area districts but runs no schools for the general public, according to agency spokeswoman Carol Vaughn. An additional 1,399 students were shipped off to a district alternative program — not technically expelled but removed from traditional classes.

Aldine is cited as a particularly striking example of the criminalization of school discipline in The School-to-Prison Pipeline, a report to be released this morning by Texas Appleseed, a nonprofit research and advocacy group focusing on social and economic justice. “The ‘pipeline’ refers to a disturbing pattern of school disciplinary problems escalating from suspension to removal from school, juvenile justice system involvement, and school dropout,” the report asserts. “Numerous studies by national experts … have established a link between school discipline, school dropout rates and incarceration. … More than 80 percent of Texas adult prison inmates are school dropouts.” (Emphasis in original)

The full Texas Appleseed report is here (PDF). It’s long, but you can just read the executive summary, which includes policy prescriptions, to get a good feel for it. The dropout problem in this state is big enough (no matter what Governor Perry says) that we need to get our hands around all of it in order to truly address it. Read the Trib story and the Texas Appleseed report for a good start.

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