Point of Entry: The Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline

Posted by Center for American Progress on November 23, 2015

Point of Entry: The Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline

The term “school-to-prison pipeline” has become a powerful metaphor to capture the processes by which children—typically low-income children of color—are pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system. While exact definitions of suspension and expulsion vary across states and school districts, it is clear that what were intended to be last resort and occasional disciplinary tools have become wildly overused and disproportionately applied to children of color, resulting in dramatically negative long-term effects.

Data from the U.S. Department of Education show that African American schoolchildren of all ages are more than three times more likely to be suspended and expelled than their non-Hispanic white peers. American Indian/Alaska Native, or AI/AN, youth are similarly overrepresented in school discipline data: They account for 0.5 percent of total enrollment but 3 percent of total expulsions. While all boys account for two out of three suspensions, girls of color are also overrepresented in the remaining one-third of suspensions. African American girls are suspended at a rate that surpasses boys of nearly every racial group with the exception of African American and AI/AN boys. Likewise, the suspension rate of AI/AN girls outpaces that of non-Hispanic white boys.


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