PHILADELPHIA, PA - Advancement Project, together with Youth United for Change, a Philadelphia-based youth organization, has released Zero Tolerance in Philadelphia: Denying Educational Opportunities and Creating a Pathway to Prison, which criticizes zero tolerance in Philadelphia schools as a failed policy that makes city schools less safe, criminalizes or pushes out of school tens of thousands of students every year, and creates a School-to-Prison Pipeline.
Among the most startling findings in the report are the following:
Philadelphia’s arrest rate was up to 25 times higher than some of the other large districts in the state. In fact, one single high school in Philadelphia had more arrests in 2008-09 than 17 of the other 19 largest school districts in the state.
According to the data, Philadelphia schools are punishing the same behavior far more harshly than it did just a few years ago, and also appear to be criminalizing its students far more often than other Pennsylvania school districts for the same behaviors.
Philadelphia’s school security force is almost three times larger than that of the 19 other districts combined, despite a far lower student enrollment.
The number of expulsions has skyrocketed in recent years, and nearly all of the students expelled in 2008-09 were between the ages of 8 and 14, with the most common ages of the expelled students being 11 and 12.
Black and Latino students are far more likely to be suspended, transferred to alternative schools, and arrested than White students, and the data suggests that students of color are being punished more harshly than their peers for the same behavior.
There are strong negative relationships between the use of exclusionary discipline and both graduation rates and academic achievement rates, meaning that schools with high suspension and arrest rates are far more likely to have low graduation rates and low achievement levels.
Charter schools in Philadelphia appear to have disciplinary practices that are as harsh, or even harsher, than traditional public schools.
The report recommends a number of steps that the district, Department of Education, and state legislators can take to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline in Philadelphia.