Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Can Afterschool with a Foundation in SEL Help Disrupt the School-to-Prison Pipeline?

By Sam Piha

In a recent Forum For Thought on the American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF) website, AYPF Policy and Research Intern, Olivia Thomas, raised the concern about the school-to-prison pipeline and cited afterschool as a contributing solution. (See original post here.)

She began by sharing a number of facts: 

Olivia Thomas
  • In the 2009-2010 school year, 96,000 students were arrested at their schools, and an additional 242,000 were referred to law enforcement by a school administrator.
  • Black and Hispanic students made up more than 70 percent of those students.
  • LGBTQ students and disabled students are also disproportionately punished under punitive policies as compared to their peers.
  • Black youth in particular make up about 16% of students in public schools, but approximately 40% of the students being arrested and committed to the juvenile justice system. This translates to black students being more than four times as likely as their white peers to be arrested at school despite the fact that both groups commit disciplinary offenses at similar rates.”
She then made a case why afterschool can be part of the solution: 
  • "Social and emotional learning (SEL) has long been a central point of afterschool programming. In learning skills such as self-awareness and responsible decision making, youth can learn to better manage their emotions and experiences, and navigate potentially hostile classroom environments in a way that is considered more acceptable by school administrators.
  • Afterschool and OST programs provide a safe, supportive place for young people to spend their time. The activities offered by specific programs provide a positive focus for their energy and keep them engaged between the critical hours of 3:00-7:00 pm – the time frame in which juveniles are most frequently victims or perpetrators of violent crimes. 
  • Another longtime focus of afterschool has been on culturally relevant teaching. This practice ensures that different narratives and cultures are represented truthfully and equitably in lessons and activities. As a result, students from disadvantaged backgrounds feel seen and heard in their learning experience, and can play an active, productive role in it.
  • Afterschool can connect students to various opportunities and resources that allow them to explore postsecondary career and education options that they would not have access to otherwise. Career exploration, college visits, and internships are the types of experiences that can help keep students engaged in their learning by challenging and motivating them to think about their future path.
  • Wraparound services exist to holistically serve the needs of youth. Afterschool programs can integrate these services to further provide students with the tools and support they need, from access to healthy food to connections to social services. Wraparound supports in OST settings can ensure young people have the resources and support they need so they can better function and thrive in a school environment.” 

To learn more about the school-to-prison pipeline, check out these two videos: 

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