A project that looks at the connection between school discipline policies and the juvenile justice system has new support from the Connecticut Health Foundation. But it comes just as lawmakers are considering rolling back one of the reforms the project advocates.
It is called the schools to prison pipeline project. The Wilton-based nonprofit Connecticut Appleseed will research school discipline policies and how they affect the likelihood that students will become inmates.
Policy analyst Claire Howard says the goal is highlight discipline policies that are focused more on problems-solving than punishment.
"Policies that create interventions that catch kids before they get suspended for 5 days, before they get expelled." says Howard. "We want to make sure they get either academic support or mental health support to avert them from the school to prison pipeline."
Part of the project's aim is to keep students in school when they're suspended, so getting in trouble doesn't just mean a day off.
A report last year by Connecticut Voices for Children found that students in poorer communities were nearly four times more likely to be suspended than students in wealthier districts. Special education students were more than twice as likely to be suspended than their peers.
A state law requires that districts adopt in-school suspension policies this year. But a lot of towns have called that an unfunded mandate that's unaffordable during this fiscal crisis. A bill to delay the requirement until 2012 has passed the Planning and Development Committee, and is pending before the General Assembly's Education committee.
The Connecticut Health Foundation awarded the schools to prison pipeline project a $25,000 grant this week.