In response to at least 240 school shootings that have taken place since the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012, many local, state, and federal proposals are calling for harshly punitive school environments, including more school resource officers (SROs). But this report, Students Under Siege: How the school-to-prison pipeline, poverty, and racism endanger our school children, documents how more SROs in schools don’t improve safety, rather they only lead to more referrals of schoolchildren to the juvenile legal systems.

This report offers an alternative — measures that transform punitive discipline practices into restorative justice practices. This report finds that restorative justice practices and the adoption of social and emotional learning are contribute more to the well-being of schoolchildren than punitive policies.

Key Observations:

  • Schools with school resource officers (SROs) refer children to the juvenile legal system for “disorderly conduct” at a rate almost five times that of schools without SROs.
  • Recent research indicated that even one suspension can double the likelihood that a student drops out of school.
  • According to Kids Count, which uses data from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, for the 2013-2014 school year, nearly three million students in U.S. public schools experienced in-school suspension, and nearly three million students experienced out-of-school suspension. This trend continues for the 2015 to 2016 school year.
  • Black students, who during the 2013 to 2014 school year represented 15.5 percent of the public school student population, were 46 percent of those punished with multiple suspensions outside of school.
  • As of 2017, it was estimated that Latinx public students were suspended every nine seconds somewhere in the country.
  • Students with disabilities receiving IDEA services during the 2013 to 2014 school year were more than twice as likely to receive one or more out-of-school suspensions as compared to their counterparts without disabilities.
  • Data from the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection indicated that Native American/Alaska Native students were 2 percent of referrals to law enforcement during the 2013-2014 school year, despite representing 1.1 percent of the total public school student population.
  • Of the LGBTQ respondents to The 2015 National School Climate Survey from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), 26.8 were punished with detention, 13.2 percent were punished with either in-school or out-of-school suspension, and 1.3 percent were expelled.
  • A 2013 report from the New York Civil Liberties Union observed a positive correlation between the presence of low-income students and suspension rates.
  • An average of over 150,000 truancy (sometimes defined as just more than three days of unexcused absences from school) cases annually regularly result in fines, loss of custody, placement in foster care, even incarceration and probation for both juveniles and parents.
  • Among the benefits observed by high school students, staff, and administrators participating in a restorative justice program in a 2016 study were disruption of the school-to-prison pipeline and improved academic performance.

Read the full report here [PDF].

Find shareable graphics here.