Episode Overview


  • 68% of urban high schools now have police (SROs) patrolling their corridors.
  • Most teens in the juvenile justice system are there for non-violent crimes, such as truancy and disruptive behavior.
  • One out of every three teens who is arrested is arrested in school.
  • Two-thirds to three-fourths of teens who are incarcerated in juvenile detention centers withdraw or drop out of high school.

This reality has been called “the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Photo credit: TS Media, Inc./ Richard Ross.

The second in a series of education specials from Tavis Smiley Reports, “Education Under Arrest” looks at the connection between the juvenile justice system and the dropout rate among American teens and the efforts by educators, law enforcement professionals, judges, youth advocates and the at-risk teens themselves to end this link. Tavis takes his cameras to Washington State, Louisiana, Missouri and California to present a narrative of what is working on the frontlines of reform.

Schools throughout the country have become key entry points into the juvenile justice system. In fact, one in three of every teens arrested is arrested in school. Today, according to experts and advocates working on behalf of at-risk teens, too often, disciplinary problems that in prior generations were handled within the school, such as disruptive behavior, foul language and truancy, are dealt with through suspension, expulsion and arrests.

Too many schools, both public and charter, still operate under the so-called “Zero Tolerance” mandate, which came about after the horrifying Columbine tragedy. This has resulted in kids being removed from school as a first response rather than a last resort. And once kids are suspended or expelled from school, it’s very difficult to get them back on track.

This episode looks at the efforts by those on the frontlines of reform to examine what is working to break the school-to-prison pipeline and keep teens from incarceration and in school. As Judge Jimmie Edwards of St. Louis tells Tavis, “I truly believe as an appointed judge, I can stand up and say lock ’em up and throw away the key is not the answer. I truly believe we need to educate them.” “Education Under Arrest” investigates successful initiatives to do just that.

Last modified: March 26, 2013 at 8:47 pm
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