On this week’s 60th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision striking down de jur segregation, the school-to-prison pipeline once again is teaching children of color that they are indeed separate and that they are certainly not equal.
Harsh and unequal school discipline practices in a number of communities throughout our state disproportionately push out black and Latino students from the classroom into the criminal justice system. Increasingly, students of color are drawn into this school-to-prison pipeline, often after over-zealous suspensions and in-school punishments that discourage rather than encourage commitments to the learning process.
Education is a top priority for all South Carolinians. Regardless of what divides us, we should agree on one thing: In order to enable all children to succeed, to reduce unemployment and poverty and to solve the workforce shortfall in our state, we need children to stay in school. To improve our graduation rates, we need to reform discipline practices that unnecessarily send them on the path to prison. School should be a place where kids learn from their mistakes and are taught positive behaviors, not pushed out. Dumping students into detention centers costs our state, and it short-changes them individually.