U.S. Attorney’s Office Hosts Conference on Ending the School-To-Prison Pipeline
BOSTON – The U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Civil Rights Unit hosted “Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline,” a conference aimed at examining and restructuring existing practices in order to reduce the number of students who take their first steps toward involvement with the criminal justice system while in school.
“The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office is responsible for enforcing a wide range of federal civil rights statutes, and an increasingly large proportion of its work has been devoted to ensuring that youth in Massachusetts have access to equal educational opportunities,” said U.S. Attorney Ortiz. “This conference focused on connecting a diverse array of stakeholders who all share the common goal of formulating creative solutions to end the school-to-prison pipeline in different disciplinary fields, in addition to educating participants about the Civil Rights Unit’s role in disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline.”
The half-day conference, held at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, brought together a diverse audience of over 300 educators, school resource officers, advocates, lawyers, students, social workers, and community members for a series of panels and plenary sessions about broadening the dialogue around the school-to-prison pipeline. The term “school-to-prison pipeline” broadly describes the phenomenon by which youth – particularly youth of color and youth with disabilities – are pushed out of the classroom, through overly punitive discipline practices and school-based arrests, and into the juvenile justice system.
Keynote speaker Chief Judge Steven C. Teske of the Clayton County Juvenile Court in Georgia spoke about the need to avoid zero tolerance policies in schools and arrests for minor offenses. Stephen Spaloss, the Regional Vice President of City Year, hosted a plenary about how service providers should examine how they build positive and supportive relationships with the youth they serve.
Panels explored topics including innovations in training school resource officers, juvenile court reform and restorative justice, trauma-sensitive schools, and the effect of the school-to-prison pipeline on students with disabilities. Panelists included local and national thought leaders from a variety of disciplines, including judges from the Middlesex Juvenile Court and formerly with the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, civil rights lawyers from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and the Disability Law Center, law enforcement officers from the Cambridge Police Department, and professors from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, Harvard Law School, Boston University School of Law, and the Boston College School of Social Work.
The Civil Rights Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office was established in 2015 with the mission of enhancing federal civil rights enforcement. For more information on the Office’s civil rights efforts, please visit www.justice.gov/usao-ma/civil-rights.