The media is beginning to catch on to a trend that many juvenile justice reform experts have known for quite some time: The earlier a student is exposed to the juvenile court system the more likely they are on average to drop out of school early.
An earlier post discussed a report from The Center of Public Integrity, analyzing the more than 30,000 citations that the Los Angeles Unified School District issued over a three-year period. Many of those citations involved minor conduct, as failing to wear a bicycle helmet. Too often these citations lead to more serious legal issues. Commonly, students and parents don’t attend the hearings that relate to the citations. This, in turn, leads to judges issuing arrest warrants. That’s one way the road to juvenile detention facilities begins; a minor infraction results in a more serious legal problem—a pattern that some have called the “school-to-prison” pipeline.
The most recent media outlet to discuss this issue and the impact of citations on school dropout rates is the PBS NewsHour. On June 26, they ran a segment about this phenomenon. The corresponding coverage on the PBS website is called, “Early Punishments Can Have Lasting Impact for Some Students.” It’s worth watching, along with some of the coverage of this issue on The Madeleine Brand Show, broadcast by a local NPR affiliate in Santa Monica.
While it is gratifying that think tanks and public radio and television stations are reporting on the school-to-prison pipeline, as a juvenile criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, I know that this situation isn’t likely to change until it becomes a more mainstream concern.