Stopping the pipeline

Legislation introduced by Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, aimed at dismantling Utah’s School-to-Prison Pipeline experienced some success in the session this year. Inspiration for Hollins’ legislation came from a report issued by the law school’s Public Policy Clinic,  “From Fingerpaint to Fingerprints: The School-to-Prison Pipeline in Utah,” in which researchers found that school disciplinary actions handed down to students at Utah public schools disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities enrolled in the state’s public education system. The statistics in the report are startling. For example, students identified with disabilities are twice as likely to receive a school disciplinary action as students without a disability.  Studies show that suspension and expulsion rates are closely correlated with dropout and delinquency rates, and have tremendous economic costs. Referrals to law enforcement and arrests at school are the harshest forms of school disciplinary action and expose students directly to the juvenile justice system, according to the researchers. Such students often become part of the “school-to-prison pipeline,” or STPP, wherein children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems through a combination of overly harsh Zero-Tolerance school policies and the increased involvement of law enforcement in schools. Since the report was issued, law students have collaborated with community partners and have organized several initiatives to try to shed light on the issue. They are available to talk about their research findings, community events and how Hollins’ legislation is a step toward positive change.

Lincoln Nehring, director of the S.J. Quinney College of Law Public Policy Clinic at the University of Utah, Lincoln.nehring

Vanessa Walsh, J.D. Candidate,  S.J. Quinney College of Law, 801-910-1503,