CJJ Applauds Secretary of Education for his Commitment to Eliminating the School to Prison Pipeline

Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke today at the National Press Club about his pledge to eradicate the school to prison pipeline. CJJ fully supports the Secretary’s efforts to keep kids in school, rather than diverting them into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

“We believe that this country is better served if we ensure that our youth have access to positive school environments,” said Marie Williams, Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice. “So many young people, especially minority youth and those with disabilities, are facing suspension, expulsion, or time in a juvenile facility for minor, non-violent offenses. We are grateful that Secretary Duncan is calling for a greater investment in eliminating the school to prison pipeline.”

During the press conference, Secretary Duncan spoke about his involvement in the Chicago Public School System and his interactions with youth in schools and prisons during his time as Secretary. These experiences have influenced his decision to focus on, “setting a different direction as a society, a different priority – one that says we believe in great teaching early in our kids’ lives, rather than courts, jails, and prisons later.”

He outlined several strategies for investing in education, rather than in incarceration:

  • Fully preparing and supporting teachers;
  • Reinvesting in effective teachers who are working in high-need schools;
  • Turning around low-performing schools;
  • Addressing gun violence, bullying, and harassment to create a positive school environment;
  • Expanding access to quality pre-schools;
  • Supporting family and community involvement; and
  • Engaging officers and educators in an effort to confront implicit biases about race, ethnicity, and class.

“CJJ believes that every school environment should be welcoming to students and families, so that all children can succeed,” said Ms. Williams. “We are eager to continue working with the Department of Education to realize our shared vision.”

You can learn more in CJJ’s fact sheet on “Positive School Climate” and our positions on ensuring school engagement; promoting the role of prevention; engaging youth, family, and communities; diverting youth from the justice system; and reducing institutionalization. You can read the full text of Secretary Duncan’s speech at http://www.ed.gov/news/speeches/investing-teachers-instead-prisons.