The School to Prison Pipeline in the USA. Examining The Influence Of Zero Tolerance Practice Using School Survey On Crime And Safety (SSOCS) Data

Research Paper (postgraduate) 2010 20 Pages

Psychology - Forensic Psychology, Penal System


Table of Contents

Executive Summary
Background Of The Study And Significance
Analysis Of Zero Tolerance Policies
Justification for zero-tolerance practices.
Critiques Of Zero-Tolerance Policies

Research Questions

Significance Of The Study

Research Design And Methods

Specific Aim
Data Collection Phase
The mail-Stage
Data collection
The follow-up session

Survey instruments
Personal information
School Practices and Programs
Parent and community involvement at school
School security
Staff training
Limitations on Crime Prevention
Frequency of Crime and Violence at School
Number of incidents
Disciplinary Problems and Actions
School characteristics

Data analysis strategy
Descriptive statistics
Correlation analysis
Logistic regression

Dealing with Missing data



Executive Summary

Keeping students safe in school have been an issue of concern in the country over the past decade. School officials have continued to deliberate on best ways to keep the students safe including putting of police officers in schools. Insecurity might be thought to be caused by external perpetrators, but it is also possible that students can be the agents of insecurity. Thus, police presence in the schools can significantly improve then the level of security. Jason P. Nance through an empirical analysis stated that increasing police officers presence at school will significantly increase the odds that a school will refer students to law enforcement for offenses including the lower-level offenses. The laws put in place by the school administration so as to ensure security prevails in the school may determine the level of discipline of its students. While the governments have continuously conducted researches and surveys targeting to inform the public about the safety of the student. Less have been done regarding determining which can be the best school policies that should be put forward so as to reduce the crime rates amongst the students. In considering the different strategies for promoting safe and productive school environments, it has been difficult to know what works better and what doesn’t. Zero tolerance in schools has been an issue of concern for both the government and the school administrators. In particular, longstanding debates about zero tolerance policies leave many people confused about the basic facts (Jacob K Brown et al., 2013).

The goal of this research project is to collect secondary data from the U.S National Center for Educational Statistics about School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS) that was conducted in the fall of 2010 school holiday.

My main objective is to use this data to conduct an in-depth research using survey data collected from school principals to compare outcomes of programs with and without zero tolerance policies and practices. To analyze this objective, I am going to use different statistical computations that assess the relationship between the number of crimes occurring in a school and the type of punishment passed for different crimes. Some of the statistical calculations I will employ include correlation analysis, logistic regression, multiple regression and tests based on the comparison of means.

The findings of this study can be used to provide a guideline to the school administrators on how to discipline students and also guidance to them whether they should tolerate low-level crimes committed by the student.

Background Of The Study And Significance

The incidences of discipline rates in America are at all-time high level. The situation is characterized the prevalence of racial discrepancies in the administration of discipline and frequent incidents of expulsion, suspension and school-based arrests. Items of news showing stories of school kids being suspended or expelled or even arrested for committing trivial violations. Before the commencement of the punitive “zero tolerance” statutes, legal and institutional policies and practices such violations were professionally handled by teachers and well-trained administrators. These statutes, legal and institutional policies and practices have escalated the “School-to-Prison Pipeline” to a proportion of disastrous magnitude with voices of reason from all spheres calling for their revocation and reform. The study chief objective is to give informative facts about school discipline and outline efforts likely to allay disciplinary disparities among the races in America and demolish the tower of “School-to-Prison Pipeline”.

The appalling Newton shootings in Connecticut can be attributed to being among the major factors that appealed to the school administrators and numerous lawmakers to consider formulating policies that will promote the safety of students in schools (Ann,2007). Despite their well-intentioned objectives, the implementers and policy makers of these laws have failed to consider the potentially detrimental effects of these laws on the students and the way the laws have exacerbated “School-to-Prison Pipeline” (Theriot, 2009). A study by Jason P.N showed that policies such as ensuring a regular presence of police officers in a school have considerably elevated the probability that school officials will refer students to the law officer for various offenses even those that are trivial and minute in magnitude and could have been well addressed academically-sound techniques.

In response to increased juvenile crimes and drug use, the education system has been encouraged to no longer deal with offenses in schools. The option the system has adopted is to refer students to law enforcement agencies for even the smallest degree of offense such as bringing a cell phone to a class, stealing a dollar from a classmate, passing gas in class and violating dressing code of the school (Theriot, 2009). The situation is so dire that in 2007, a six-year-old, Desre Watson, was arrested and cuffed on the biceps for throwing tantrums at an elementary school in central Florida (Herbert,2007). What crime could a six-year-old have possibly committed to being treated as a suspect?

“School-to-Prison Pipeline” is a termed coined to represent the escalating involvement of students in the justice system. The term was connoted to refer to the trend among school officials to refer students to law enforcement agencies for processing and rehabilitation which has seen an influx of students in the juvenile system. This quickness of reference of kids to law enforcements instruments for committing offenses has increased the rates at which students are being expelled, suspended or even worse arrested (Eckes & Russo, 2012). The overwhelming fallacy believed hook, line and sinker by the administrators of the schools are that the fear of being arrested will push the students from committing offenses. Contrary to these beliefs, the arrest of students has been shown by many studies to elicit severe undesirable consequences and rarely do they achieve any substantial reformative effect (Dowd,2013).

In his book, Punishing Dangerousness Through Preventive Detention: Illustrating the Institutional Link Between School and Prison, Ronnie Casella combating violence in school, drug use and other behavioral problems by students through punitive punishments such as submitting students to law enforcement(Casella,2003).Many civil rights champions have vehemently opposed these tendencies passionately arguing that such a referral only serves thrust students, in particular of color, into the weary dungeons of juvenile and criminal justice structures(Casella,2003). The study aims to investigate the specific practices within schools and juvenile justice systems that endeavor to propagate “School-to-Prison Pipeline”. Moreover, an in-depth empirical analysis of the association between harsh disciplinary proceedings in schools and the dispositional practices in the juvenile and criminal justice structures and how they exacerbated the “School-to-Prison Pipeline”.

Analysis Of Zero Tolerance Policies

The prevalence of crime, violence and other behavioral problems in schools was a subject of immense focus by the public in 1990’s. The administrators of many public schools became increasingly concerned about the dreadful incidences of drug abuse, gang violence among students and rampant shootings such the one in Columbine High School. These inflamed the public’s worry about the safety conditions of schools. The administrators and policy makers in response to the escalating activities threatening safety in schools responded by endorsing and implementing zero-tolerance policies and practices. The clarion call was zero-tolerance to drugs, zero tolerance to alcohol, zero-tolerance to truancy and zero-tolerance crime. The underlying assumption of incorporating these rules was that the policies will craft a peaceful learning ambiance and dissuade others from violating school regulations by removing the disruptive elements.

Originally, the zero-tolerance policies and practices came into action in the 1980’s as a preferred approach to school discipline in efforts to combat and discourage drug use. After the enactment of the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 ,which required and to some extent compelled the school administrators to expel a student from school for a period not less than 1 academic year if the student is determined to have brought a firearm in the precincts of the school, the application of zero-tolerance policies rapidly spread. The Act, staying true to its punitive nature, further directs the schools to refer the culprits determined to have brought a firearm to school to law enforcement. Although the law specifically provided for zero-tolerance policies with regards to firearms, educational agencies seized the opportunity and crafted zero-tolerance guidelines for other disciplinary infringements. In the school year 1996-1997, zero-tolerance policies had widely spread that 94% of public schools reported having zero-tolerance policies for firearms and 91% instituted zero-tolerance policies for other weapons. In addition, 88%, 87% and 79% of the schools had zero-tolerance policies for drugs, alcohol, and school violence respectively.

Justification for zero-tolerance practices.

The supporters of zero-tolerance policies argue that to deal effectively with violence, crime, and drugs in schools, and then there is a need to employ no-nonsense, forceful instruments to mitigate against these vices being propagated in schools (Coggshall, Osher & Colombi, 2013). Perhaps, the irrefutable evidence that specifies the existence of violence is the rampant shootings experienced in American schools. The proponents suppose that the zero-tolerance policies are necessary to investigate efficiently students who are a potential threat to the safety of schools and deter them from engaging in activities that might hurt them or their colleagues (Bell, 2015). Another justification of zero-tolerance policies implantation it is the hope that such policies communicate explicitly the commitment of education agencies to combat and punish firmly and swiftly any disciplinary infringement (Bell, 2015). The proponents of zero-tolerance policies have maintained that the policies might demolish the racial disciplinary disparities by dictating in advance the penalties for disciplinary infractions thus potentially diminishing racially based punishment (Kim, Losen & Hewitt, 2010).

Critiques Of Zero-Tolerance Policies

Although drugs, school violence and crime in schools are at endemic levels, recent data from the public institution like the United States Department education have showed a remarkable decline in these vices. (Coggshall, Osher & Colombi, 2013) The rates of nonfatal victimizations have been empirically shown to have drastically declined from nearly 200 per 1000 students in 1992 to about 50 per 1000 students in 2011 (Files.eric.ed.gov, 2015). Some argue that the decline could be attributed to the implementation of zero-tolerance policies; however, these same drastic declines were experienced and reported away from school. The arguments of proponents of zero-tolerance policies being hinged on incidences of youth homicide do not hold water since the rates have been fairly stable from 1992-2011 and these constituted to a fairly insignificant 2% of all youth homicides in that period (Files.eric.ed.gov, 2015).

The exacting opposition to zero-tolerance policies is the fact that it is promoting racially biased punishment for disciplinary infractions (Skiba, Arredondo & Williams, 2014). Based on these policies students of color are subjected to stringent penalties and sanctions compared to their white counterparts. One social-science study in Connecticut found out that students of color have a higher likelihood of being arrested for committing disciplinary transgressions than white students violating the same offenses (Fenning & Rose, 2007). In a study of male students in a Midwestern school district established black students were inclined to receive severer punishments than their white peers for related behavioral infringements (Skiba, Arredondo & Williams, 2014). There is an overrepresentation of students of color in the parameters of school discipline such as suspension, expulsion, and arrest, which could explain the disciplinary racial disparities (Fenning & Rose, 2007).

Evidently, zero-tolerance policies are propagating and streamlining the avenue of “School-to-Prison Pipeline” (Coggshall, Osher & Colombi, 2013). The punitive nature of the punishments portray schools as a unwelcoming environment for students; this shoves the students out of the school system into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. There is proof enough that removing students from school does not mitigate their misdemeanor tendencies, on the contrary, it aggravates these tendencies, and they become worse. A study by Casella of young prison inmates in Connecticut revealed that severe disciplinary penalties and policies such as zero-tolerance policies enhance undesirable educational outcomes (Casella, 2003).



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school prison pipeline examining influence zero tolerance practice using survey crime safety ssocs data



Title: The School to Prison Pipeline in the USA. Examining The Influence Of Zero Tolerance Practice Using School Survey On Crime And Safety (SSOCS) Data