October 6, 2016

The tough-on-crime policies of the 1990s have gotten a lot of attention this election season, largely because of Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime Bill which many now argue was a contributing factor in today’s mass incarceration crisis. However, less focus has been placed on how those policies were put into practice into schools. A video by Retro Report shows how zero tolerance policies first began in schools in the 1980s, and how that helped created the school-to-prison pipeline that exists today.

We know now that harsh discipline practices have lead to the criminalization of youth, particular young men of color. In recent years, in an attempt to correct these policies, suspensions and other harsh disciplinary practices have decreased. Still, 2.8 million K-12 students a year receive at least one out-of-school suspension and black students are almost four times more likely than white students to be disciplined.

The Department of Education recently released a #RethinkDiscipline campaign to raise awareness about how harsh discipline practices affect students, and the Obama administration has issued a series of best practices for school resource officers to decrease on-campus arrests. How else can we undo the lasting effects of zero tolerance and tough-on-crime policies of the ‘80s and ‘90s?