A student who experiences greater disengagement, discipline, expulsion and suspension at school is at risk for increased involvement in juvenile justice and ultimately time in jail or prison. This phenomenon has come to be called the "school-to-prison" pipeline.
Students with disabilities may experience multiple levels of disengagement in school. This may come from curriculum that is too easy or too difficult; undue isolation or segregation from peers; failure to develop and implement appropriate behavior plans, failure to provide necessary accommodations; and punitive measures, such as zero tolerance, utilized in response to disability-related behavior. Students with disabilities are more likely to be suspended to expelled than other kids. National studies indicate this is particularly pronounced when looking at discipline practices over time, where one third of children with disabilities are suspended or expelled during their school years, a much higher rate than the general population. US students with disabilities comprise about 11 percent of all school-age children in the US but make up almost 20 percent of those who are suspended. Policies that require suspension or expulsion for certain behaviors ostracize students with disabilities from peers and educators who could help address their needs. According to the National Association of School Psychologists, these discipline practices that restrict access to appropriate education aggravate setbacks for students with disabilities, increasing the probability that these students will not complete high school.
DRW has sought grant funding and worked collaboratively with TeamChild and other organizations to address this issue in Washington.