It Can Be Done: How One Charter School Combats the School-to-Prison Pipeline
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The school-to-prison pipeline is a theoretical construct that explains how disproportionate discipline and exclusionary punishment of Black and Brown students ultimately pushes youth out of mainstream schools and into the criminal justice system (Basford and Lewis in From education to incarceration: dismantling the school to prison pipeline, Peter Lang Publishing, New York, 2018; Heitzeg in Forum Public Pol Online, 2009; Lewis and Basford in Six lenses for anti-oppressive education (counterpoints: studies in the postmodern theory of education), Peter Lang Publishing, New York, 2014; Morris and Perry in Soc Probl 63(1):68–86, 2016). While the research has documented the existence of the school-to-prison pipeline and its impact on families, less has been done to study schools that have worked to successfully interrupt the pipeline. The authors respond to this void in the literature by using Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (Motivation and personality, Harper, New York, 1987) and Noddings’ ethic of care (Caring: a feminine approach to ethics and moral education, University of California Press, Berkely, 2003) to interpret the successful efforts of one charter high school focused on dropout recovery, specifically targeting youth who have experienced or are at risk for the school-to-prison pipeline. Findings from this case study suggest that the school embodies what we call institutional plasticity through innovative programming, carefully selected and trained staff, a family-like atmosphere, wrap-around services, and flexible planning for intermittent attendance. Implications identify elements of institutional plasticity for consideration in other settings.
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