A “preschool to prison pipeline” sounds like a bad joke. But the sad truth is that too many young children, who are just learning how to read and write and behave, are being pulled out of classrooms for conduct that is often average for their age. As author and mother Tunette Powell puts it: “My son has been suspended five times. He’s three.”
School discipline is never an easy business, but the pendulum has swung way too far in recent years. Removing kids from class can too often trigger a spiral where students fall behind, sour on school, or even fail. When I heard Tunette Powell speak, she recalled her own childhood suspension: “When they told me I was bad, I believed them.”
The young people who are targeted are disproportionately children of color and special education students. And removing young children also hurts the classmates who remain: studies by the American Psychological Association and others show that removals hurt morale and grades in the rest of the classroom.
That’s why it’s such a big deal that Texas Appleseed won victories last month in Dallas and Austin, two of the state’s biggest school systems. Austin is ending suspensions for kids from Pre-K through second grade, and Dallas is reducing them. School officials in both cities adopted these measures unanimously. Both cities will provide training to help teachers deal with disciplinary issues while keeping kids in class.
As one person at the Austin hearing told KVUE-TV, “They’re at such a young age. They’re getting ready to learn what it is to be in school. And yet they are being suspended for minor misbehaviors, and sometimes it’s also because of implicit bias.”
“We are so excited that Dallas and Austin unanimously approved policies that will keep our youngest children in class, learning alongside their peers,” said Morgan Craven, director of Texas Appleseed’s School-to-Prison Pipeline Project. “We know that suspensions are harmful for students and that there are positive behavior models that teachers can use to manage their classrooms and support students.”
Texas Appleseed began confronting and chipping away at the school-to-prison pipeline more than a decade ago. Reaching these milestones took research, bipartisan advocacy, persistence and patience, and they build on similar victories in Houston and El Paso. Texas Appleseed has made great strides in combatting the school-to-prison pipeline, including bringing an end to the criminalization of truancy.
Winning these kinds of victories for the most vulnerable among us is an Appleseed hallmark–and it takes support from people like you. If you can, please make a tax-deductible contribution today to the Appleseed Network, to Texas Appleseed or one of our other amazing Centers.