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Fixing the School-to-Prison Pipeline With Mental Health Support in Schools

Fixing the School-to-Prison Pipeline with Mental Health Support in Schools

According to the US Department of Education, the amount of suspended students in America could fill up a Super Bowl stadium 45 times.

This statistic does not speak about the amount of children in America that misbehave and warrant punishment but rather speaks about this country's neglect of children who need the support of their school system the most.

It's no secret or hush-hush fact that the United States has the largest prison population in the entire developed world. In fact, incarcerated people is the one thing above else that the United States leads the world in.

Also a fact- students who are suspended are three times more likely to "be in contact with the juvenile justice system within one year," said the Huffington Post. In order to fix what is known as a school-to-prison pipeline, there needs to be less ineffectual suspension and more emphasis on support services in schools.

"Children who are exposed to violence tend to suffer from a range of psychological issues, and often have 'difficulties with attachment, regressive behavior, anxiety and depression and conduct problems.' Without mental health support services, few are able to cope with the emotional stress in a productive manner on their own," said The Huffington Post.

Mental health services in schools and communities have proven to help reduce crime. The Huffington Post points to a 2004 study conducted in Illinois, where measures to add out-reach programs and support services resulted in sweeping success.

In the four sites where the lowered detention was tested, crime became 44% lower just three years later; for every $1 spent on "Aggression Replacement Training, Functional Family Therapy, and substance abuse treatment" programs, $3.50 of incarceration expenses was saved.

In New Orleans, where the charter school reform has yet to provided tangible measures of success in increased student achievement, something else is producing tangible results that signal a good thing.

In one New Orleans charter schools, Shonda Gray has founded"The Ultimate Purpose Program" which provides students with "group and personalized therapy sessions, as well as college and career coaching" within the school's walls.

The program has experienced so much success in raising student grades and attendance that Gray will be expanding the program into a small private school.

"Sometimes as educators we just look at the behavior and we're quick to suspend the kid without really knowing what's the root of the issue. You can suspend a kid, but when that kid comes back, you're still going to have to deal with the same thing. So what happens is the kids become repeat offenders. You never got to the root of the issue. Then you end up with a kid that drops out of school, and decides not to come back, and just says, 'Forget it,'" Gray told The Huffington Post.

An investment in mental health services on a nationwide level is the first step in making sure "forget it" is not what kids in need end up saying about education.

Read the full article here and comment with your thoughts below.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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