Essay on School to Prison Pipeline

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Table of contents

  1. Literature Review
  2. Consistent Methodology and Methods
  3. Approaches, Strengths, and Inherent Weaknesses
  4. Key Concepts
  5. Relation and Meaningful Aspect of Approach
  6. References

Literature Review

The “School-to-Prison Pipeline” is an incessant trend, particularly within urban schools in America. It has increasingly been influenced by discriminatory policies causing disproportionate effects on certain adolescent groups and families on the basis of color. The implementation of a zero-tolerance policy has further mitigated the cause.

Consistent Methodology and Methods

Current Research goes to show the best possible way to conduct research with reverence to this particular subject has been a qualitative approach. Over fifty works of literature have been referenced and analyzed to support this dissertation. An analysis of such literature leads one to conclude that, indeed, the methodology most common and consistent with the scope of this study has been proven to be the “Qualitative Method” of research. The popularity of this method can be found in over half of the chosen work i.e. 50%.

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The disproportionate implementation of the School-to-Prison Pipeline can be best assessed in depth by a qualitative approach and yield better results. The landmark research of Crawley and Hirschfield (2018), Wright, Morgan, Coyne, Beaver & Barnes (2014), Fahey (2016), and Heitzeg (2017) illustrated efficiently, through the use of qualitative approach, the proper evaluation of the racial gap, adverse effect of the zero-tolerance policy and play a crucial role in the future researches by heavily contributing to the creation of new ideas for the process of transformation and potential implementation of discipline models wiping out zero-tolerance policy’s detrimental effects.

On the other hand, a mixed approach has also gained sufficient support when it comes to evidence collection. J. Thompson in his article “Eliminating Zero Tolerance Policies in Schools: Miami-Dade County Public School’s approach” published in 2016, elucidated the obvious gap in treatment between African-American students with that of White American students. It played a vital role in decreasing school-related arrests, suspensions, and expulsions. (Thompson, 2016)Whereas Moreno and Scaletta (2018) by adopting a mixed approach were better able to highlight the importance of educator perceptions of behavior and the root cause of discrimination.

However, a recent wave of research has primarily been opting qualitative approach. Heitzeg(2017), Gordon (2018), White (2018), Barnes (2018), and Alnaim(2018), to name a few, have been crucial to the development and have all made use of the qualitative methodology.

Approaches, Strengths, and Inherent Weaknesses

Most of the researchers have attempted to incorporate a legal framework in their approaches to properly assess the situations that surround themselves around discriminatory practices against people of color. The most common theories that have been put to test are legal concepts and psychologically based theories. Researchers such as Barnert Et Al (2015) structured their argument on the detrimental effects of incarceration and the lives of students. Similarly, Moreno and Scaletta (2015) structured their findings on qualitatively approached interviews. Berlowitz, Frye, & Jetter carried out interviews in 2017 to form the basis of research titled “Bullying and Zero-Tolerance Policies: The School to Prison Pipeline.” While the majority focused on legal concepts and the implementation of policies. Researchers acknowledge that frequent application of suspension is not educationally justifiable and unavoidable. Zero tolerance policies unsympathetically affect African American pupils in school environments.

The persistent weakness found in the cluster of research has extremely isolated samples which eradicate a comprehensive overview. The focus on subgroups of adolescents affected and isolated contributing factors has created an ignorance of major determinants. To illustrate, the research Fahey conducted in 2016 was limited to three models and the adverse effects on academics only. There was an evident lack of focus on diverging variants that can easily obstruct academic progress. Many other types of research lacked a clear conclusion, or source of discriminatory and misappropriate implementation of disciplines, accompanied by a lack of strategic component targeting systems of inequity and creating systems that encourage justice and equity.

Whereas, the importance of this research can’t be subdued due to the weakness exhibited. For instance, Curtis (2014) in his research “Tracing the School-to-Prison Pipeline from Zero-Tolerance Policies to Juvenile Justice Dispositions” successfully outlined that adults play a vital role in the rehabilitation of students instead of just implementing punishment and toxic disciplinary actions. On the other hand, Heitzeg (2017) illustrates and holds the government accountable for African-American students being discriminated against. It also highlighted how zero-tolerance policy and SROs are much more detrimental rather than beneficial as is their intended application.

Key Concepts

Copious studies have examined the consequence of the zero-tolerance policies on minority youth specifically African-American (e.g. (Finn & Servos, 2014), (Townsend-Walker, 2014), (Busby, Lambert, & Lalango, 2013), (Alnaim, 2018) ). According to these studies, prejudiced and inequitable policies and practices in schools have contributed to racial inequalities in regulation. Public schools are more likely to have School Resource Officers, more jarring discipline practices, and more referrals to law enforcement concerning the United States.

The integral phenomenon discussed is the zero-tolerance policy’s toxic application, exclusionary punishment, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the impact of discriminatory policies in education and the criminal justice system.

The key concepts that can be deduced after a proper analysis of all the available research material are the implicit bias and social dominance theories which have been utilized in sociological research to illustrate how prevalent traditional stereotypes contribute to how organs of certain ethnic groups counter to outsiders and outsiders to them. Hutchinson (2015), examined Disproportionate Minority Contact (DMC) from a public policy perspective. The study concentrated on felonious statutes that disparately affect people of color. Hutchinson (2015) also elaborated on how linked racial bias and stereotypes can influence and limit lawmakers, and people who are in the position of power to empathize with adolescents of a specific targeted ethnic group.

Theories such as social dominance, implicit bias, critical race theory, and racial threat approach distinctive viewpoints of the school-to-prison pipeline research and assist the argument that implicit bias and stereotypes have heavily contributed to the marginalization of African-American.

Relation and Meaningful Aspect of Approach

As previously stated, nearly fifty percent of the research implied qualitative research to be the best possible approach as it yielded better results as compared to those of other approaches. Multiple researchers such as that Barnert Et Al (2015), Moreno and Scaletta (2018), Berlowwitz, Frye, and Jetter (2017), and Dunning-Lozano (2018) made use of interviews to carry out in-depth research and properly determine the perspective of African-American students and their point of view of the application of zero-tolerance policy which proved to be an incredibly useful insight on how to further approach the case of such discriminatory policies.

As Smith (2015) in his research, “Generation at Risk: The Ties between Zero Tolerance Policies and the School-to-Prison Pipeline” elaborated on the impact of the zero-tolerance policy and its impact on the educational system of the United States. It highlighted the increased dropout rate due to the application of a zero-tolerance policy elucidating the connection between punishment policies and adverse impact on the academic perspective of youth.

Furthermore, Holly (2016) determined and proved the negative impact of ZTP procedures and went on to highlight the negative results such as administrative failure of schools, suspension, and school exclusion increasingly becoming a norm which is an entirely unfair disciplinary policy.

Much of the research was carried out on the implicit basis of General System Theory as well as the integration of a qualitative approach, incorporating the legal aspect to create a rich picture for a much more comprehensive and true analysis of the given situation. The researchers have contributed meaningful data to the pool of information creating an apt platform for future research and for this specific one as well.


  1. Claim. (2018). The Impact of Zero Tolerance Policy on Children with Disabilities. World Journal of Education.
  2. Alam, M. (2018). The Impact of Zero-Tolerance Policy on Children with Disabilities. World Journal of Education.
  3. Arellano-Jackson, J. (2015). But What Can We Do? How Juvenile Defenders Can Disrupt The School-to-Prison Pipeline. Seattle Law Review.
  4. Barnes, A. (2018). School To Prison Pipeline Unmasked: Review of how the School to Prison Pipeline Reinforces Disproportionality in Mass Incarceration. Academic Works.
  5. Barnet, E., Perry, R., Azzi, V., R., S., Ryan, G., & Dudovitz, R. (2015). Incarcerated Youth's Perspective on Protective Factors and Risk Factors for Juvenile Offending; A Qualitative Analysis. American Journal of Public Health, 1365-1371.
  6. Busby, D., Lambert, S., & Lalango, N. (2013). Psychological symptoms linking Exposures to community violence and academic functioning in African American Adolescents. Youth of Adolescence, 42(2), 250-262.
  7. Cowan, D. (2016). Men of Colour Evading the School to Prison Pipelines: A Phenomenological Study Championing Justice.
  8. Cramer, E., Gonzalez, L., & Pellegrini-Lafont, C. (2014). From Classmates to Inmates: An Integrated Approach to Break the School-to-Prison Pipeline. Equity and Excellence in Education, 461-475.
  9. Crawley, k., & Hirschfield, P. (2018). Examining School to Prison Pipeline Metaphor. Oxford Research Encylopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
  10. Curtis, A. (2014). Tracing the School-to-Prison Pipeline from Zero-Tolerance Policies to Juvenile Justice Dispositions. George Town Law, 1252-1270.
  11. Fahey, B. (2016). A Legal-Conceptual Framework for the School to Prison Pipeline: Fewer Opportunities for Rehabilitation for Public School Students. Nebraska Law Review, 765-797.
  12. Finn, J., & Servos, T. (2014). Misbehavior, Suspensions, and Security Measures in High School: Racial/ Ethnic and Gender Differences. Applied Research on Children, 5(2), 1-50.
  13. Heitzeg, N. (2017). The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Education, Discipline, and Radicalized Double Standards. Adolescent Research Review, 49-54.
  14. Holley, V. (2016). Qualitative Study of How Students Experienced Exclusionary Discipline Practices.
  15. Sullivan, A., Norman, E., & Klingbeil, D. (2014). Exclusionary Discipline of Students with Disabilities. Remedial and Special Education. 199-210.
  16. Thompson, J. (2016). Eliminating Zero Tolerance Policies in Schools: Miami-Dade County. Brigham Young University Education and Law Journal. Retrieved from
  17. Townsend-Walker, B. (2014). Suspended Animation: A Legal Perspective of School Discipline and African American Learners in the Shadows of Brown. Negro Education, 83(3), 338-351.
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