Poster Paper: Breaking the Rules or Breaking the Law?: The Criminalization of School Discipline

Saturday, November 5, 2016
Columbia Ballroom (Washington Hilton)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Curtis M Williams II, Rutgers University

In 2013, Florida High School Student, Kiera Wilmot, was expelled from school and arrested for two felonies after she caused a small explosion by demonstrating a science experiment to her friends. Her story highlights the ways in which schools across the US are relying more on exclusionary discipline practices and referrals to law enforcement to address behavior problems. One underlying explanation is that crime control has become the prism through which officials address student behavior, causing them to treat student misbehavior as comparable to criminal activity. Rather than administering developmentally appropriate consequences, school officials dispense severe punishments, including suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to law enforcement.

At the same time, both the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems have adopted harsher approaches when dealing with people who are charged with crimes. These simultaneous developments in the education and justice systems have often been referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline, which is characterized by a journey that perpetuates failure from the time a student enters school until they are finally captured by the criminal justice system. The purpose of this project is to synthesize the research on the school to prison pipeline, particularly focusing on how the criminalization of school discipline has contributed to its growth, and to raise potential questions for future research.