Schools are sending kids on a fast-track to prison, and it is hurting the future of our country. Schools use suspensions and expulsions to punish kids, instead of helping them correct behavior. This phenomenon is a big part of why my half-brother Brian is in prison now. I’ve
written about zero-tolerance policies in Ohio, and how it led Brian on a path toward prison—the school system ignored him and kept him out of the classroom instead of helping him. The fact of the matter is that 68 percent of male prisoners in the U.S. don’t have
high school diplomas. Some kids need more guidance than others, and kicking those kids out of classrooms is not the answer. When Brian first got suspended, he was acting out in class, being “disruptive.” No one ever asked why he was doing what he did, instead he was sent home and told not to come back for the rest of the week.
Why aren’t we helping students in need? Keeping kids out of the classroom leads them to worse and worse behavior and when that behavior goes unchecked, they never learn how to stop. This is what sends so many young people to jail and prison—no one ever helps them fix their behavior so they continue to behave that way. If no one ever shows interest in kids, they don’t want to be in school. If they don’t want to be there and they figure out how to get out of school, they’ll continue that bad behavior until they end up incarcerated. Once a child has a criminal record, it can be very hard to turn their life around. We need better support systems in our schools. We need to stop suspending and expelling kids at such high rates. We need to stop sending our kids to prison.
An original version of this post appeared on SFER.