The school-to-prison pipeline, is the result of the national trend towards increasingly harsh school and municipal policies, sometimes called Zero Tolerance. This problem has become a significant topic of debate in discussions surrounding educational discipline, juvenile justice and child welfare practices. In 2018, the State of Vermont took a bold step to address this problem, deciding that youth under the age of 19 (the age will be increased over time to 21), who commit offenses should be adjudicated in Family as opposed to Criminal Court. This important reform was the result of a number of critical factors, including: decades of advocacy highlighting the negative impact of the “school to prison pipeline”; a general change in popular attitudes regarding mass incarceration; a deeper understanding of structural racism; a strong movement towards restorative justice; and a more accurate understanding of the impact of trauma on the development of the adolescent brain. As the leader in this effort, Vermont has an enormous opportunity to advance a new approach to juvenile justice; one that will become a model for the rest of the country.
In this class we will have the opportunity to contribute to these changes in policy and practice. Specifically, we will examine:
- The history of the juvenile justice, educational and child welfare system’s approach to juvenile offenders.
- The emergence of the term “school to prison pipeline” and its impact on social awareness, policies and programs
- The reasons that Vermont decided to make these reforms and what the implications of these changes will be.
- The emerging science of trauma and brain development that has contributed to this change in public policy
This class is a prerequisite for a class in the spring semester in which we will have the opportunity to pilot new programs that will be used as models in the implementation of this new law.