Once those children are in the juvenile justice system, they are denied basic constitutional rights. They are handcuffed and incarcerated for days without any hearing and subsequently warehoused without understanding their alleged probation violations.
To illustrate how this system works, Colorlines provides the example of Cedrico Green. When he was in eighth grade, he was put on probation for getting in a fight. After that one incident, every subsequent offense was deemed a probation violation — from wearing the wrong color socks, to talking back to a teacher – and the consequence was a return to juvenile detention. He couldn’t even remember how many times he had been back in detention, but guessed 30 times – time when he wasn’t in school, fell behind in his schoolwork and subsequently failed several classes, even though he said he liked school.
The phenomenon of disciplining kids through the criminal justice system is known as the “school-to-prison pipeline” – a process that paves the way for some kids accused of minor disciplinary violations to spend less time in school, and more time getting exposure to the criminal justice system. Colorlines explains:
A 2010 study by Russell Skiba, a professor of education policy at Indiana University, looked at four decades of data from 9,000 of the nation’s 16,000 middle schools. It found that black boys were three times as likely to be suspended as white boys and that black girls were four times as likely to be suspended as white girls. It is a serious, endemic issue. […]
Research shows that if the intent behind zero-tolerance policies is to discourage misbehavior and foster good learning environments, they don’t do the job. A sweeping 2006 study (PDF) conducted by the American Psychological Association found that zero-tolerance policies don’t actually make schools safer, and in fact can work to push students away from school. If, however, the intent is to push students of color out of school, away from their educational futures and into the criminal justice system, there is also a body of evidence that suggests that zero-tolerance policies are rather effective instruments.