Austin Council passes resolution to end 'school-to-prison' pipeline

Research finds children who are suspended from school are much more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system.

AUSTIN - Research finds children who are suspended from school are much more likely to end up in the juvenile justice system. It's called the school-to-prison pipeline, and the Austin City Council passed a resolution Thursday aimed at finding ways the city can help those children. 

In 2011, an unprecedented study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center and Texas A&M University looked at the school-to-prison pipeline in Texas and found there are other ways to discipline kids to get better outcomes. 

The study looked at more than one million seventh graders for six years. It found that 97 percent of the time, students were suspended for offenses that were discretionary; meaning it was up to administrators to keep them in school or suspend them. 

It also found suspended students are more likely to be held back a grade or drop out of school. And one in seven suspended kids end up in the juvenile justice system.

Experts attribute the trend to zero-tolerance policies and having police officers in schools who arrest students for minor behavioral issues.

Additional research from Texas Appleseed found those punishments don't address behavior problems and instead lead to other issues in children. 

"When we use punitive exclusionary discipline, or we use police or courts, to criminalize behavior what we're really attacking is very age appropriate, developmentally appropriate normal behavior in kids. And a lot of times what kids need rather than to be punished or sent into the court system is a little bit of guidance," said Morgan Craven, director of the Texas Appleseed School to Prison Project.

The Austin City Council's resolution extends the work of the Youth Justice Work Group, which is made up of educators, police and children. They will look for things the city can do to support children.

This is the same group that made recommendations leading to the elimination of the city's juvenile curfew

It's also worth noting state lawmakers passed a law this year prohibiting schools from suspending kids who are in pre-K through the second grade.

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