Lending a Voice to the Voiceless: Mitigating the School-to-Prison Pipeline Through Social Justice-Focused Research

Lending a Voice to the Voiceless: Mitigating the School-to-Prison Pipeline Through Social Justice-Focused Research

Adrian Blakely (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7787-4.ch005


This chapter addresses the issues faced by marginalized students in P-12 public schools in the United States, with a specific focus on the defined correlation between the educational experience of minority students and the extremely disproportionate amount of incarceration among those same student groups. The author's purpose is to shine a light on this issue while further defining aspects of our educational system that may be playing a role in this inequitable outcome. The contents include a qualitative analysis on teacher diversity and training, standardized testing, and the environmental influences of American public school programming and design. Citations include work from professionals in the field, such as Neuroendocrinologist Robert Morris, Marie E. Ferrey, Author of Looking at the Crisis in Hispanic Education, and Dr. Monahan, Professor of Communication at UNC at Chapel Hill.
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In the United States today, one of the most significant issues affecting our society is the disproportionate numbers of minority juvenile offenders. It is unfortunate to see that any should lose their freedom, especially when educational disenfranchisement plays a significant role. It is untenable to imagine our school systems, the institutions charged with the social and cognitive development of our children, could be somewhere at the root of this damaging and potentially long-term and life altering cycle of incarceration, institutionalization, and broken families. This very phenomenon is so evident and pervasive that it has been its own acronym - SPP or the School to Prison Pipeline. SPP can be defined as a child’s negative experience within her/his legally mandated public schooling years that sets forth a series of events propelling her/him towards a path to prison. More specifically, there are specific ethnic groups within our country where SPP could be considered an epidemic, specifically traditionally marginalized populations. Their educational environment contains parallels to that of the institutionalization within our prisons resulting from a lack of minority educators leaving them with no cultural experience with which to connect. Contributing to the problem are high stakes testing serves to exploit and isolate their weaknesses rather than maintain a well-rounded student body. This subject is highly controversial because we find ourselves within a time where respecting each other’s culture and ways of communicating is a debatable topic rather than a social norm. For SPP students, they find judgment where there should be understanding for their differences to allay a too often prescripted path. The moment is no more pressing than now and must be championed by the educated among us that understand the value of embracing various and diverse cultures and ways of communicating and bridging the gaps for our children to uncover their potential within our society, rather than condemning them to a life unfulfilled and predestined for failure.

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