Report connects school suspensions with pipeline to prison

May 14, 2019

A new report from the State Bar Association says the current school discipline system is creating a school-to-prison pipeline.

A new report from the New York State Bar Association calls for changes in the school discipline system.
Credit NYSBA

When Sharon Stern Gerstman was the State Bar Association president in waiting, she set up a task force on the pipeline and persuaded a wide array of people involved with the law and education to study the suspension issue.

"These children end up with suspensions which means that they are very often left unsupervised and headed for more trouble," Stern Gerstman said.

"It puts them way behind in their school work. It takes them out of the social structure that is open important in schools for their development."

The task force report outlines a variety of problems with school suspensions.

"Discipline is not meted out in any fair measure. It's done with a heavy disparate impact upon minority children," Stern Gerstman said. 

"So, that you can have exactly the same behavior in a minority child and in a white child and the white child is given a pass."

The report argues restorative justice practices and particularly those involving peer students can change other students. However, state law doesn't encourage restorative practice.

"Many of these children, they have the intelligence to go beyond high school if they can get that intelligence harnessed in a productive way," said Stern Gerstman, who believes restorative justice practices can better help troubled students. She also argues the state needs to fund the effort.