Let's Not Forget About Girls in the School-to-Prison Pipeline

Posted on: Thursday October 25th, 2012

All the advocacy around the criminalization of young men is starting to pay off in the form of lower incarceration rates. But there's a downside: young women and the trials they're facing are being overlooked, and an increasing number of female students are winding up in jails and residential centers.  

According to a new report from the Georgetown Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy, girls now make up the fastest-growing segment of the juvenile justice system, with more than 300,000 arrests and criminal charges every year. If that wasn't bad enough, most of these girls are committing nothing more serious than skipping class, breaking curfew or running away from home. But rather than helping these young women deal with the underlying reasons for these misbehaviors, our society is criminalizing them, marginalizing them and denying them access to future opportunities.

A few weeks ago we posted an equally important new report from the African American Policy Forum that highlights the unique challenges and barriers to educational success that young women of color face. In addition to harsh, zero-tolerance discipline policies that push young men and women alike down the "school-to-prison pipeline," young women of color must also contend with a culture of low expectations stemming from gender and racial stereotyping. Too many young women are either being pushed out of the classroom into the juvenile or criminal justice systems or relegated to a life of low-wage jobs. 

Across the board, for both young men and young women, we need to rein in our tendency to punish rather than support. The OTL Campaign recently joined with the Dignity in Schools Campaign to launch Solutions Not Suspensions, a national initiative calling for a moratorium on out-of-school suspensions and an end to school pushout. We need to keep our students in the classroom rather than pushing them out of school! No one benefits when our young people wind up in jail–not the students, not their families and not their communities. Let's do everything we can to provide all students with the supports and opportunities they need to succeed in school and in life. 

Learn more about Solutions Not Suspensions here.

Download the African American Policy Forum report here.

And download the Georgetown Center report here.