School to Prison Pipeline

Students conduct research on the school to prison pipeline and think about how teachers could be trained to help disrupt the pipeline.

Task Force: School to Prison Pipeline


You have been selected to develop a teacher training program designed to help teachers disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline.  

Why Are We Doing This?

The ACLU defines the school-to-prison pipeline as “a disturbing national trend wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems”. Basically, students often have their first contact with the criminal justice system because of an issue that should be handled by the school. This phenomenon disproportionately affects students of color and students with disabilities. Teachers have not been adequately trained to help students stay in the classroom and out of the juvenile justice system. 


  1. Research the school to prison pipeline. See if you can answer some of the following questions: 
    1. What are “zero-tolerance” policies in schools, and how do they contribute to the school-to-prison pipeline? 
    2. How do suspension and expulsion policies relate to the pipeline? 
    3. When a school has a police officer (school resource officer), what is their role in enforcing school rules? 
    4. What are some common “offenses” that students are punished for? 
    5. Can you find any information about what teachers say they need in order to better understand and help students?  
  2. Now, think about what role teachers can play in disrupting the pipeline. Think about: 
    1. While teachers are just one piece of the puzzle, what role can they play? 
    2. What should teachers know about the school-to-prison pipeline? 
    3. What information and resources do teachers need to deal with issues in the classroom? 
    4. For teachers of the most affected populations (students of color and students with disabilities), what particular knowledge and resources are needed? 
    5.  What should teachers know about defining punishable offenses? (Disruption, defiance, insubordination, etc). 
  3. Think through the possible objections to your plan and how you would respond. 
  4. Share with the group and see if you can convince them that your plan will help address the school-to-prison pipeline. 

Things to Keep in Mind:

  • You do not have to come up with an exhaustive plan. It’s better to come up with a few ideas that you feel confident with and spend time thinking through possible objections to them. 
  • You don’t have to worry about answering all possible objections, but you should have some defense of why you think your idea would work. 
  • Your suggestions should be things that could realistically be implemented.