School is stressful. Students have to juggle the pressures of performing well academically and finding where they fit in socially.

You should be able to trust that your school has your best interests in mind and won’t make your life harder through unnecessary harsh discipline policies that can jeopardize your future.

The ACLU of Missouri found that Missouri schools disproportionately suspend, expel, refer to law enforcement, and even physically punish students of color and students with disabilities. (You can read our report.)

We found that students with in-school behaviors met with harsher, more frequent discipline have a greater likelihood of finding themselves caught up in the criminal justice system as they grow up, which is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

You’ve probably seen these kids in your school or may even have personal experience facing the mental consequences of too-harsh and too-frequent punishment at school.

Many studies show that displacing students from the classroom interferes with their opportunity to get a proper education and diminishes their chances for a successful future.

Many times, students singled out for discipline develop perceptions of themselves as “bad,” leading to a damaging cycle of low-self esteem that can affect them for the rest of their life.

If you are a student of color or have a disability there is a higher likelihood that you will face these challenges. And that isn’t right.

You are building a future and should be treated with respect. So, what can you do to stop the school-to-prison pipeline in your community?

It is important that you are informed and prepared to hold school administration and law enforcement accountable.

You should know your rights while in school. Schools must provide this information to you. Knowing what rights apply when interacting with school administration and law enforcement will help prevent their abuse of authority.

Schools should clearly communicate their behavior expectations and punishment policies. Having clearly defined policies will reduce disproportional punishment rates. You should ask the school to clarify anything that is unclear.

If you have concerns about potential disciplinary inequalities at your school, you should talk them through with a parent or guardian. (Check out our recommendations to parents.)

You can view our school-to-prison pipeline report for more information on how to improve Missouri schools.

 

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