The shift to virtual schooling placed adolescents in the USA out of the reach of harsh school disciplinary procedures, contributing to a drastic reduction in juvenile court referrals nationally – functionally pausing the school-to-prison pipeline. Characterized by school disciplinary approaches placing adolescents on a trajectory to juvenile and then adult criminal legal systems, this pipeline is most pronounced for Black and Latinx students, students with disabilities, and in schools serving impoverished communities.
Against the backdrop of a society in crisis, the return to in-person schooling might be a perfect storm: the anxiety, demoralization, fear, and frustration of stressed and academically behind adolescents manifesting in externalizing behaviors. A resurgence of the school-to-prison pipeline is a foreseeable outcome, one that would place vulnerable adolescents into a juvenile justice system that is not only ill-equipped to address their current mental or physical health needs, but is also associated with poor adult trajectories. Proactively taking steps to mitigate a resurgence of the pipeline is a matter of population health. These steps might help turn the pause in the pipeline into a permanent cessation, contributing to life trajectories that are overall healthier for vulnerable adolescents.
In her article for The Lancet: Child & Adolescent Health, Dr. Sarah Vinson further discusses this matter. To read the full text of her article, click here.