The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has actively fought to help bring to light the fact that there are a disproportionate number of suspensions of Black and Hispanic students in our schools nationwide. Students who are given in-school suspension once are more likely to be suspended again and, thus the vicious cycle begins: “School suspensions have long been connected to an increased participation in the juvenile justice system and, later, in the adult justice system. Suspensions disproportionately push black and Hispanic students onto a path from which it is difficult to break free” (American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island, 2015).
The school to prison pipeline is real and needs to be disrupted and stopped altogether. Hundreds of schools recognize this and are investing in wrap-around services and programming that effectively support the social-emotional needs of the whole child. Instead of suspending students by sending them on a “mini-vacation,” schools are redesigning in-school suspension programs so they no longer serve as glorified baby-sitting for unruly students.
Jerome D. Mack Middle School in Las Vegas, Nevada has redesigned their in-school suspension program and is stopping the school to prison pipeline by addressing the social-emotional needs of children. Their newly designed tiered placement is called STEP, which stands for Successful Temporary Education Placement. STEP focuses on innovative methods to ensure students are staying on top of their academics with the guidance of a licensed teacher, while also receiving intentional character development. They use 1-to-1 technology for students to receive work, materials and support from their classroom teachers.
thinkLaw adds to STEP by giving this group of mixed-grade students the opportunity to engage in rigorous, standards-aligned discussions, debates and writing activities involving real-life legal cases. Mrs. Calvo, Mack Middle School’s assistant principal says,
Our students enjoy the legal topics and the opportunity to solve challenging real-life problems. And we are excited to see them implement these critical thinking skills back into the classroom once they exit the STEP program.
As a result of Mack Middle School’s intentional focus, the school’s suspension numbers have decreased from a high of 265 suspensions during the 2013-14 school year to 23 for the 2015-16 school year. The percentage of students who returned to STEP after their initial referral decreased from 45% in 2014-15 to 9% in 2015-16. We are proud to be partners with Mack Middle School, who have become a model school within a school program!
Two other schools in Clark County School District are including thinkLaw as a solution to disrupting the school to prison pipeline:
Mario C. and JoAnne Monaco Middle School
and Charles Sylvestri Junior High School
If you would like to learn more about how thinkLaw can help be a part of your school’s solution to a revamped in-school suspension program, click here to schedule a time to speak with someone on the thinkLaw team or call us now at (702) 318-7512.
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