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Report Launch: "Kept Out: Barriers to Education in the School-to-Prison Pipeline"

April 20, 2012 —

Many vulnerable students in the U.S. today are being prevented from re-entering traditional schools following suspension, expulsion or interaction with the juvenile justice system. This is the conclusion of a new report, "Kept Out: Barriers to Education in the School-to-Prison Pipeline," by 12 Georgetown University Law Center students.

"Every student is entitled to an education as a fundamental human right," said Max Sirianni, a second-year Law Center student and member of the fact-finding team. "All levels of government should prioritize access to education for youth, regardless of their criminal or disciplinary history."

The report is based on nearly 120 interviews conducted by the students in Los Angeles in January 2012, as part of a year-long experimental seminar, "Human Rights Fact-Finding: Vulnerable Children and the School-to-Prison Pipeline." Interviewees included students who have been kept out of schools, their family members, education law professionals, teachers, social service providers, government officials and community organizers.

The students analyzed how existing federal, state and local law policies and procedures affect the human rights of students attempting to re-enter traditional schools and discovered that these individuals encounter multiple barriers to re-entry. They contend that many students who experience "Keep Out" are vulnerable youth who hail from low-income, often violence-plagued communities, and that "Keep Out" heightens the risk that these students will not finish high school, thus limiting their career prospects and increasing their likelihood of future involvement with the criminal justice system.

The students recommend that the federal government change performance requirements in existing U.S. law that incentivize schools to turn away low-performing students, make education a priority in the rehabilitation of youth involved in the juvenile justice system, ease restrictions on record-sharing to allow student transcripts to be shared between schools and the juvenile justice system and provide effective policy guidance and training to ensure that schools avoid "Keep Out." They also recommend that at the local level, school districts, school services and juvenile justice systems should create multi-system partnerships to serve students’ underlying needs and help facilitate successful re-entry.

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