Our school discipline has been built upon the flawed foundation of exclusion. Young people who experience school suspension are more likely to experience academic failure, drop out of school, have substance abuse challenges, have mental health needs, and become involved in the justice system. As we wrote in our 2018 report on school suspensions in Virginia, children and youth who are disconnected and isolated from academic, social, and community environments are not safe, not health, and not able to grow into the strong, educated community members we all want them to be.
This flawed foundation of exclusion has created policies and practices that push young people out of school and into the justice system—also known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.” But exclusionary school discipline and overzealous policing don’t affect all youth the same. In Virginia, Black and Brown children and children with disabilities are far more likely to be trapped in the school-to-prison pipeline than white children or children without disabilities.
To achieve schools and communities where all children can thrive, Virginia must divest from its overuse of exclusionary discipline and invest in evidence-based, restorative discipline practices.