The school-to-prison pipeline has effects on the learning and motivation of Saddleback College students

Aisha Andrade Political Science major is demonstrating the positive campus climate of the Learning Resource Center at Saddleback College. Taylor Crane I Lariat

Saddleback and other community colleges have a responsibility to aid children who have been affected by the school-to-prison pipeline in their transitions from either dismissive school policies or even the juvenile system, said Jose Lumbreraz professor of ethnic studies.

“It is a phenomenon that discusses how the educational system has failed youth,” Lumbreraz said. “There is poor funding for schools, lack of teachers, punitive policies of suspension, detention, and expulsion, overcrowded classrooms, deteriorated schools; and as a result, such schools have lower graduation rates, low college acceptance rates, and higher rates of youth interacting with the carceral system.” 

K-12 campus discipline ranges from what the National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments describes as restorative disciplinary procedures, as campus climate improvements and the use of restorative practices as well as the use of punitive discipline that results in students having probation, community service, restricted housing, and expulsion.  

“Students who have been suspended are significantly more likely to drop out of school and become involved in the juvenile justice system than their peers,” according to the NCSSLE.

In suspending or expelling students, campus faculty are giving these students more time outside of the classroom and away from the learning environments they are supposed to be subjected to. 

“Disproportionately this impacts black and brown boys and students with disabilities, who receive harsher punishments in school for disruptions then other students,” said Heba Hodaly, assistant professor of Political Science. “The data shows that excessive discipline of black boys starts as early as kindergarten and a child’s elementary school experience has a great impact on their life trajectory.” 

These unfair treatments and low expectations for the stigma put on misbehaving children at a young age added with the punitive disciplinary measures heavily increases these children’s chances for dropping out or giving up in school. By extending a punishment of giving them time away from the classroom not only gives what the child wants but increases their disdain for the classroom and learning for the future.

“This denotes the acknowledgement of how history and oppressive educational barriers such as racism, classism, and gender stereotypes have colored the experiences of Black boys in education and rejects the idea of a unilateral or static perspective for understanding experiences,” according to a group of coauthors in the scientific journal, Countering Educational Disparities Among Black Boys and Black Adolescent Boys from Pre-K to High School: A Life Course-Intersectional Perspective.

 Orange County is not immune to the school-to-prison pipeline that affects urban and rural areas. There are numerous graduates who were pushed out of OC’s traditional schools to then attend continuation schools.

“In California, there are more than 430 continuation high schools,” said Ian Hanigan, who serves as chief communications officer for the OC Department of Education.

Lumbreraz said that the school-to-prison mentally has created this conceptualized idea that children can be labeled as “criminals”, “undesirable” or “unfit” to attend traditional schooling. Which in reality dismisses these kids to this label influencing their misbehavior.

Saddleback is adding requirements to Ethnic Studies courses as well as the new Rising Scholars program. The mandate for Ethnic Studies brings more awareness to the minority point of view and the policies and laws America has forged and destroyed in order for equality to be equal, Lumbreraz said. Saddleback’s Rising Scholar’s programs especially targets transitioning formerly system impacted or incarcerated youth by giving them mentoring and aid to help them successfully attend courses.

“Saddleback however has not joined Puente, which is an academic and counseling program that works with students, majority Latinx from local high schools and community colleges that are disproportionately affected by the school-to-prison pipeline along with African American youth,” Lumbreraz said.

The Puente program is active at Irvine Valley College as well as many other community colleges in Orange County, Riverside, and across the North and South of California. With a new Director of College Equity, Inclusion, and Access at Saddleback new expertise regarding support will be available for students. Along with hopes for pursuit in Puente and community outreach.

“These programs have the power to dismantle the pipeline and help the students who have been affected by reassuring them that they are not criminals but agents of change that can succeed and challenge the school-to-prison pipeline,” Lumbreraz said.