The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Time to Shut it Down - …

Glenda Thorne
Glenda Thorne, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist in the State of Louisiana and has conducted psychoeducational, psychological, and neurodevelopmental evaluations of children, adolescents, and young adults for 30 years. She specializes in the neuropsychological processes that underlie learning (i.e., attention, language, and memory), and in conducting evaluations for Attention-Deficit Disorders, dyslexia, and other learning disorders and their associated social, emotional, and behavioral issues. Glenda is the lead author of the Behavioral, Academic and Neurodevelopmental Survey, a clinical data gathering system for teachers, parents, and students, and the co-author of the Learning Profiles professional development program and the Right from Birth parent training curriculum. She has conducted professional learning and continuing education seminars on neurodevelopment, dyslexia and other reading and language disorders, and Attention-Deficit Disorders. She is the proprietor of Helping Minds Behavioral Health, LLC, a business established for the purpose of assisting children, adolescents, and young adults become successful, productive individuals who have the tools to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of others. Previously, she served as vice president of Student Services at the Center for Development and Learning (CDL). Glenda holds a doctorate degree in psychology from LSU, and she completed a mini-fellowship at the Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

The School-to-Prison Pipeline: Time to Shut it Down
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Using zero tolerance policies have proven to be less effective in the classroom and in the life of the student. Alternative methods such as positive reinforcement, understanding negative behavior in context and training of our children’s educators is proving to be much more effective in managing the classroom. This will help to reduce disruptive and bullying behavior, produce better members of society who are less likely to go to prison and use welfare and more likely to complete school and earn higher degrees of education.


Suspensions and expulsions are doing more harm than good

The trauma-sensitive schools movement is the result of a confluence of forces that are changing how educators view students’ academic and social problems, including the failure of zero tolerance policies to resolve issues of school safety, bullying, and academic failure, as well as a new understanding of adolescents’ disruptive behavior.
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It has also been noted that students who are disciplined in the zero tolerance policy have a multitude of negative consequences. Psychosocial immaturity which can include poor resistance to peer influence, attitude towards perception of risk, future orientation, and impulse control is a major negative consequence of adolescents who were subjected to this discipline. Another negative consequence is that the rate of dropping out is much higher for students who have been subjected to zero tolerance such that it hinders their academic progress. “In one national longitudinal study, youth with a prior suspension were 68 percent more likely to drop out of school.” Dropping out of school can effectively lead to lower incomes and greater probability of unemployment. There is a good amount of evidence that shows that preventing bullying or disruptive behavior is far more cost effective than zero tolerance policies which can eventually lead to unemployment, welfare and prison costs.


Zero Tolerance Policies and Bullying in the Classroom

First, ministry with adolescents recognizes, values, and responds to thediverse ethnic and cultural backgrounds and experiences that existamong adolescents and develops culturally responsive and inclusiveprogramming to address these needs. A fully multicultural approach topositive adolescent development and faith growth views ethnicity andculture as core features of identity and behavior. It helps youthidentify and explore their own ethnic roots and cultural expressions inorder to understand their own and others' ethnic practices. Itrecognizes that the specific content of adolescent tasks andcompetencies varies by culture, such as the way young people attainindividual autonomy. It also recognizes the impact that family ethnicityhas on adolescent development in areas such as decision making andsocial relationships. Ministry with adolescents helps young peopledevelop their identity by affirming and utilizing the values andtraditions of their ethnic cultures. Specifically, it welcomes andempowers all young people; it develops leaders who reflect theethnic characteristics of the programs' participants; it trains allstaff to be competent culturally; it includes young people and theirfamilies on advisory councils; and it develops program content that isculturally appropriate and relevant to the needs of participants. Instressing with our young Catholics the importance of multiculturalawareness, and awareness of difference and diversity, we should takecare to balance this awareness with the concept of their belonging to auniversal Church, that is, with the concept of unity in diversity that characterizes the universal Church.

these zero tolerance policies have not only ..

The Church's concern for the civic community includes advocacy on behalfof young people when public issues that affect their lives need to beaddressed. Ministry with adolescents involves creating healthier civiccommunities for all young people. This involves networking with leadersin congregations of diverse faith traditions, public schools,youth-serving agencies, and community organizations to nurture a sharedcommitment to promoting healthy adolescent development and a healthycommunity; to develop mutual respect and understanding; to shareresources; and to plan community-wide efforts and programs. Buildingthese relationships can open doors for sharing resources andco-sponsoring training, programs, and advocacy efforts. Community-wideefforts are needed to serve the marginalized young people who lack thesupport and nurture of congregations and community and who are often themost vulnerable in our community. Community collaboration meansbuilding partnerships among families, schools, churches, andorganizations that mobilize the community in a common effort to build ahealthier community life and to promote positive adolescent development.