What? The School-to-Prison Pipeline Is a Myth?

The House Committee on Courts of Justice has tabled a school discipline bill, essentially consigning it to oblivion. The bill, described as an effort to disrupt the “school to prison pipeline,” would limit the practice of charging students found guilty of disorderly conduct in school with a misdemeanor.

“We’re criminalizing conduct that really needs to be corrected,” said one of the bills’ sponsors, Del. Jeff Bourne, D-Richmond.

But the Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys and the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association both opposed the legislation, and some subcommittee members expressed concern that the bill would eliminate a useful disciplinary option, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Here’s the quote in the article that caught my attention: “The whole issue of a school-to-prison pipeline is a myth,” said Bryan Haskins, the commonwealth’s attorney for Pittsylvania County.

What? The school-to-prison pipeline issue is a myth? I haven’t heard that reported anywhere else. All I’ve seen is charge after charge of institutional racism. Perhaps Haskins knows something that that never gets reported in the mainstream media, whose antenna are exquisitely sensitive to the viewpoints of of the social justice lobby.

Unfortunately, no evidence from Haskins was forthcoming in the T-D article that would have backed up his statement. Perhaps some enterprising reporter could ask him how he justifies such a counter-claim.

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13 responses to “What? The School-to-Prison Pipeline Is a Myth?

  1. The Virginia Association of Commonwealth’s Attorneys and the Virginia Sheriffs’ Association are essentially unions looking to maintain and expand the employment rolls of commonwealth attorneys and sheriffs. If the Amalgamated Order of Optical Lens Inspectors lobbied to continue onerous and details inspections of optical lenses you’d smell a rat. Why don’t you smell one here?

  2. Jim, our entire lives are built on myths. So, for example:

    (from Macbeth, spoken by Macbeth)

    Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
    Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
    To the last syllable of recorded time;
    And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
    The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

  3. Myth is how some folks who deny reality rationalize their behavior and nowhere do you run into this more than things like the criminal justice system that has been just fine filling our prisons with folks who are “criminals” because of their behaviors with drugs, scoflaws and “conduct” issues as opposed to actual violent actions against others (which very much ought to be separated from society).

    This goes back to some folks ideas that “bad behaviors” need to be punished and “rehabilitated”.

    I’m not an apologist for bullies nor disruptive kids but the punishment has to fit the crime and taking a teenager and incarcerating them with hardened criminals is not the way because virtually every person that goes to prison comes out and becomes a problem for society again in one way or the other.

    “Rehabilitation” is a joke and law enforcement and our criminal justice system and some of our legislators basically say that “rehabilitation” is someone else’s responsibility – not theirs. That’s for someone else to figure out….

    I have zero problem with charging a teenager, with assault if they physically attack someone … but even then – we need to have a better way to let them do their punishment and be able to come back to being a contributing member of society.

    The sad fact is that we have more people in prison than any other nation on earth – even the ones that have despotic governments and it’s largely because we do have a school-to-prison- then release and back into prison system.

    All this whiny blather about middle class taxes and college affordability and the cost of MedicAid – all of those things go back to this and the amount of money we spend in putting folks in prison because they are “behavior” and “discipline” problems… we created lifetime entitlement takers when we do this – because most of them come back out into society crippled in being able to make a living and becoming a taxpayer.

    • No, myths are what you, in particular, and each one of us all, build our lives on.

      • well true – but myths are discernable to those who really want to deal with the realities… facts are also important in that endeavor – and in this case – facts are things like how many we put in prison compared to other countries and how much ex-cons with a prison record actually cost society in post-prison costs – programs and entitlements, etc.

        then we do have others who invariably resort to navel gazing when dealing with such truths but oh well… life is full of such issues.. eh?

        • No, the navel gazers are those who cannot grasp the immense extent of their own limitations, so they instead grasp myths and declare them pure realities with myopic, rigid and ineffective solutions, and along the way they miss the big picture, so they cannot begin to appreciate the great scope and complexities of the problems at hand.

          For example, where do these“behavior” and “discipline” problems come from, what harm do they do, and to whom, and how can the underlying generators of these problems, in all their complexity be permanently addressed, and greatly reduced, including being largely replaced by altruistic structures and behaviors that spin off great benefits for all? Right now, we’re dutch boys with little thumbs in a dike. Lets start draining the swamps instead. So as to fix the real problem as our primary goal.

    • I agree with you about the United States having one of the highest incarceration rates in the world. I also agree that we incarcerate some people unnecessarily. As the late Gene Johnson, former director of the Va. Department of Corrections, used to say, “We need to put in prison the people we are scared of, not the ones we are mad at.”

      However, I disagree strongly with your broad assertions that “virtually every person that goes to prison comes out and becomes a problem for society again in one way or the other”, “Rehabilitation” is a joke”, and ” release and back into prison system.” The Virginia Department of Corrections has the lowest recidivism rate in the nation (recidivism is defined as returning to prison within three years of release)–about 20 percent. That means that 80 percent of those released did not come back. (Research has shown that, if an offender is going to re-offend after being released, it is usually done soon after release. The more time that has elapsed since release, the less chance of re0ffending.) It is true that released offenders often have trouble readjusting to society and getting employment, but there are many success stories of offenders who have been able to put their pasts behind them and become contributing members of society, with many using training and skills they learned while incarcerated.

      • Let me clarify a bit. “Rehabilitation” in the context of someone leaving prison as a convicted felon – means for many – a crippled ability to get a good paying job – for them and their families and in turn – a heavier reliance on entitlements but even before they get out, their families are often in dire economic straits with Mom trying to work and raise kids at the same time .. having to live in low-income housing with their kids unattended when not at school and the school itself usually adversely impacted by the sheer numbers of economically-distress families.

        This is not to say that some people go to prison for good reasons and the impacts are the impacts but what I do question is how we end up sending SO MANY people to prison – and having all these impacts. Could we back it down a bit like so many other countries do right now ?

        We have in this country a stubborn underclass demographic – people who can’t seem to escape generational poverty – and it is my believe that the way we do criminal justice right now is part and parcel of that problem.

        No matter how hard we try and how successful we are at getting kids educated – if they slip as teens and fall into the maw of our criminal justice system – it’s more often than not, a downward spiral for them – for their families, and for us – taxpayers.

        We’re all trapped in this cycle in no small part because of our continuing insistence of cycling teens with behavior problems into our criminal justice system where the damage is permanent.

  4. Here’s what the Code of Virginia says about disorderly conduct.

    § 18.2-415. Disorderly conduct in public places.

    A person is guilty of disorderly conduct if, with the intent to cause public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm, or recklessly creating a risk thereof, he:

    A. In any street, highway, public building, or while in or on a public conveyance, or public place engages in conduct having a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, such conduct is directed; or

    B. Willfully or being intoxicated, whether willfully or not, and whether such intoxication results from self-administered alcohol or other drug of whatever nature, disrupts any funeral, memorial service, or meeting of the governing body of any political subdivision of this Commonwealth or a division or agency thereof, or of any school, literary society or place of religious worship, if the disruption (i) prevents or interferes with the orderly conduct of the funeral, memorial service, or meeting or (ii) has a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, the disruption is directed; or

    C. Willfully or while intoxicated, whether willfully or not, and whether such intoxication results from self-administered alcohol or other drug of whatever nature, disrupts the operation of any school or any activity conducted or sponsored by any school, if the disruption (i) prevents or interferes with the orderly conduct of the operation or activity or (ii) has a direct tendency to cause acts of violence by the person or persons at whom, individually, the disruption is directed.

    However, the conduct prohibited under subdivision A, B or C of this section shall not be deemed to include the utterance or display of any words or to include conduct otherwise made punishable under this title.

    The person in charge of any such building, place, conveyance, meeting, operation or activity may eject therefrom any person who violates any provision of this section, with the aid, if necessary, of any persons who may be called upon for such purpose.

    The governing bodies of counties, cities and towns are authorized to adopt ordinances prohibiting and punishing the acts and conduct prohibited by this section, provided that the punishment fixed therefor shall not exceed that prescribed for a Class 1 misdemeanor. A person violating any provision of this section shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.

    If a judge interprets this statute in a fair and reasonable manner, the behavior charged must be considerably outside the bounds of normal behavior and generally sufficient to incite violence.

    The punishment for a class 1 misdemeanor is as follows.

    § 18.2-11. Punishment for conviction of misdemeanor.

    The authorized punishments for conviction of a misdemeanor are:

    (a) For Class 1 misdemeanors, confinement in jail for not more than twelve months and a fine of not more than $2,500, either or both.

    I suspect that many people charged with Class 1 misdemeanor are allowed to plead to a lower charge, get probation or have their punishment waived upon completion of community service. And one can later petition the court to expunge the record.

    I don’t know all that much about criminal law and I’m no trial lawyer, but with a bit of preparation, I’m sure that I could rip some big holes in Delegate Bourne’s arguments.

    • in terms of citing the code – I would ask , how many non-school folks are cited for disorderly conduct and sent to jail or otherwise drawn into the criminal justice system.

      Do we take a person with a job who is supporting a family – and take them from their job to serve time for disorderly conduct?

      Do we treat all people whether they are adults with jobs and families or teens in school the same – for “crimes” like disorderly conduct or are we
      using those crimes in different ways for kids in schools than we do for regular folks in society?

      If Joe Schmo goes down to the local bar and gets into a scuffle – does he get treated the same by the criminal justice system as Johnny Teen who roils a classroom?

      Why are we saying we have to use the criminal justice system to deal with misbehaving kids/teens in the first place when we know the way we are doing this actually results in really bad outcomes for many? Our attitude seems to be sometimes that they were bad and headed this way anyhow and we can’t save them… so we just let the criminal justice system chew them up.

      If would only be a moral issue if no one else was affected by doing this. But the reality is – when we do this, it sets in motion all kinds of costs to others not the least of which is basically creating more entitlement burdens for taxpayers. It’s more than a moral issue – it’s an economic one too.

  5. Interesting but I’m not ready to draw any conclusions without more information.

    How does the RVA study classify ethnically Asian students? Dollars to donuts, they are classified as “white” or eliminated from the analysis. I’ve learned in practicing law for more than 40 years that people lie and organizations distort their “evidence.” That’s why we have cross examination, discovery and depositions.

    How does the RVA study address what I will call “repeat offenders”? There may be some students who consistently cause significant disruption and even property damage or injury to others. Statistics with and without these repeat offenders need to be produced.

    And any good analysis has to include the impact of conduct on others. The greater the harm, the greater the need for a stronger punishment.

    My mind is still open and I’d like more information.

    • Well said.

      Indeed, I would expand your comment to say the plain evidence leads to the unavoidable concern that the lack of discipline in many schools today plays a major role in destroying the opportunity for the great majority of kids in those schools to get any education at all, much less a good one anywhere close to what those kids deserve. This is national crisis. It’s been going and not dealt with for too long. And it is not the fault of any of the students, but our fault as adults, and the society that we as adults have despoiled, and refused to fix. The problem at hand is only the tail end result of years of neglect and avoidance that poisons the lives to these children, often from the day of birth. One the spins off harms that radiate throughout of society.

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