Transforming Juvenile Justice and School Discipline Eliminating the Pipeline

Why have our children become referrals, serial numbers, bodies forced into a system? We’ve lost complete sight of innocent until proven guilty, especially when it comes to our children.

Every adult that a child interacts with during the school day has the potential to make the decision to criminalize child-like behavior and further the school-to-prison pipeline. That is why the Equity in Education Coalition and Washington State Minority and Justice Commission are working together to bring you a five-part professional growth series, connecting schools and educators with courts and those working in the justice system to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline.

When children are referred to courts for school behavior it can result in criminalization; creating a criminal record, criminal debt, or in some instances detention. The Washington State Minority and Justice Commission recognizes that a disproportionate number of court-involved youth are children of color, children from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and children with disabilities. The Commission seeks to address and highlight the important role that courts can play in redirecting and reconnecting court-involved youth to education and social supports in their communities.


Highlights from our last workshops!

Workshop #4

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction released proposed discipline rules, changing the landscape of student discipline in Washington State.

Overall, our panelists and parents and teachers attending believed that the proposed rules are a step in the right direction, but ultimately, fall short.

  • Pros:
    • No more zero tolerance policy
    • Educational services offered when students are not in the classroom because of disciplinary action
  • Cons:
    • Language used is too vague, leaving too much room for worst practices to continue, no accountability, and no clear definitions on important concepts like “cultural competency”


Quotes of the night:

“There are many reasons why children act out but we aren’t talking about any of them,” said parent and community advocate, Halisi Ali-El. She continued by urging OSPI to make rules with adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) in mind.

“Really OSPI is trying to get rid of subjective violations…With these new rules we can say goodbye to zero tolerance….With these rules, out-of-school discipline shouldn’t be used when students act out, talk back, our violate the dress code,” argued Paul Alig, the Managing Attorney in TeamChild’s Pierce County office.

Renton public school teacher Tymmony Keegan said, “The word that’s scratching me is discipline. Let’s just call it what it is: it’s a punishment policy.”

A parent attending questioned OSPI’s data: “My boys are of color and they get disciplined all the time, but it’s not written down. Is the data even right?”


Workshop #3

Women speaking.

A teacher told Fartun Mohamed’s son that a “C is good enough for you” and “Maybe instead of being a Doctor, you should come up with a plan B.”

To eliminate the school to prison pipeline, we need teachers to check themselves before they wreck our kids.

Fartun Mohamed, a Mother and Organizer for Somali Parents Education Board, offered this personal example to show how a teacher’s biases, both implicit and explicit, can negatively alter children’s aspirations, and play a part in steering them away from education.



Women speaking.


Ask yourself, “would I be saying this to a child if they were white?”

Carolyn Cole, of the Minority and Justice Commission in the Washington Courts, offers a tip on how to check your bias. She stresses the importance of everyone getting into the habit of “checking” themselves, and using questions like these to steer yourself.





People sitting at a table speaking.

“Our system is penalizing kids for being kids.”

Judge Nicole Gaines Phelps addresses parents, teachers, and school administrators in an open panel discussion.





Workshop Schedule

  1. Before we begin: Understanding why racial equity in education is important
    Thursday, April 27,  5:30-8:30
  2. Entering the pipeline: Early learning and discipline
    Friday, June 9 5:30-8:30
  3. Through the pipeline (Part I): Discipline in the school building
    Date: Thursday, September 14,  5:30-8:30
  4. Through The Pipeline (Part II): Action and reaction
    Date: Thursday, November 9,  5:30-8:30
  5. Into the Courthouse: Courts igniting change
    Date: TBD