The School-to-Prison Pipeline

The 2013-2014 Fellowship class at Critical Exposure has been turning their lenses on the school-to-prison pipeline, in which disciplinary practices and zero-tolerance policies in DC city schools force more students away from their education and toward the risk of incarceration. The students are advocating the implementation of a restorative justice program in DC schools.

The following text is a transcript of a speech delivered by Critical Exposure student Gina, on Nov. 13, at the District of Columbia Public School FY15 Budget Hearing. The videos were produced by members of the 2013-2104 Fellowship class. 


Good Evening Chancellor Henderson. Thank you for hosting this meeting and giving DC youth the opportunity to speak.

 My name is Gina. I’m a senior at Luke C. Moore High School and I live in Ward 8. I am speaking on behalf of the Critical Exposure Fellowship Program. We are a group of DC Youth working to implement restorative justice programs in DC.

What is Restorative Justice? Restorative Justice practices reduce the need for unjust punishments and suspensions, by building a community within the school where students feel supported. Restorative Justice programs are being successfully adopted in public school districts across the country, including some schools in Baltimore City and Montgomery County, Maryland. 

Students in DC are being pushed out of schools by harsh discipline. My younger brother, for example, gets suspended every time he steps into schools for minor reasons. The last time he was suspended for 10 days because he spoke out of turn in class. Another time it was because he was not wearing the correct uniformIn the 2011-2012 school year there were more than 10,000 suspensions in the DCPS school system. If we start using Restorative Justice we can decrease that number, and benefit the students as well as the administrators. We believe that Restorative Justice programs will also prevent fights and other incidents, decrease the rate of student dropouts, and increase graduation rates.

We want to ask you to include funds to start a Restorative Justice pilot program in a DCPS high school for the Fiscal Year 2015. We have collected over 100 signatures from DC residents in support of our campaign, including Councilmember David Grosso, Monica Warren-Jones from the DC State Board of Education, and DCPS teachers, parents and students who believe in Restorative Justice. On behalf of the Critical Exposure Fellows, I want to thank you for taking the time to listen to our ideas.