Session: From the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Back: Examining the Role of Alternative Schools (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

165 From the School-to-Prison Pipeline and Back: Examining the Role of Alternative Schools

Friday, January 18, 2019: 5:15 PM-6:45 PM
Union Square 22 Tower 3, 4th Floor (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: School Social Work (SSW)
Symposium Organizer:
Charles Lea, PhD, University of Washington
Ron Astor, Ph.D., University of Southern California
During the 2011-12 academic year, approximately 3.2 million youth in the United States received out-of-school suspensions and over 100,000 were expelled (USED, 2015). In the same year, states, such as California, that adopted zero tolerance policies suspended over 700,000 youth and expelled nearly 10,000 (CED, 2015). Yet, over the past five years, California made changes to their school discipline policies and practices wherein suspension and expulsion rates declined by 46 and 42 percent, respectively. Despite this, racial disparities in school discipline persists in California where Black and Latino youth are suspended, and expelled three times the rate than their White counterparts (Loveless, 2017). Important questions, such as, ‘What happens to youth, especially youth of color, when they are suspended or expelled from traditional schools?' thus remain unanswered. Researchers and practitioners describe the inequitable school “push out” that leads students to the juvenile justice system, and ultimately the criminal justice system, as the “school-to-prison pipeline” (Huerta, 2016). In this rather simplistic linear picture, however, alternative schools, which are defined in terms of who they serve, where they operate, what they offer, and how they are structured have largely been ignored (Aron & Zwig, 2003). An understanding of the role and influence alternative schools play in perpetuating and dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline is therefore important because many youth at risk for school failure in traditional schools are often funneled into these educational settings before and following incarceration, as they face discrimination during their attempts to enroll, re-enroll, and remain engaged (Lehr, Tan, & Ysseldyke, 2009; Rios, 2017). This symposium therefore includes both quantitative and qualitative studies that expand our understanding of the school-to-prison-pipeline phenomenon by conceptualizing alternative schools as one of the missing links, and as a potential source for understanding the experiences of the revolving door. The first paper explores predictors of expulsion by types of schools and student characteristics using data from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System (CALPADS) to better understand statewide disparities in school discipline. The second paper provides an epidemiological assessment of youth in alternative schools using the California Healthy Kids Survey. Specifically, this paper examines types of alternative schools and school experiences (i.e., school climate, violence) of youth in California alternative schools at the population level. The third paper describes how the elements of an alternative school that provides education and vocational training to formerly incarcerated youth facilitate positive school and community reintegration experiences, particularly among young black men. The fourth paper focuses on the life histories of four Latino male students' differential experiences in two alternative schools. It highlights the importance of school culture in creating either negative and positive educational experiences and outcomes through a developmental model centered on how an individual interacts with their environment. Collectively, these papers provide a nuanced understanding of the school-to-prison pipeline by using epidemiological data and case studies. Integrating empirical findings and youth voice, this symposium further highlights the critical role of mixed methods in developing relevant school social work practice and policy.
* noted as presenting author
Epidemiology of Mental and Behavioral Health Among Youth in California Alternative Schools
B.K. Elizabeth Kim, PhD, University of Southern California; Ron Astor, Ph.D., University of Southern California; Rami Benbenishty, PhD, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Structured Opportunities: Examining the Nuances of Alternative Schools through the Narratives of Latino Males
Adrian Huerta, PhD, University of Southern California; Edwin Hernandez, MA, University of California, Los Angeles
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