We knew that putting Betsy DeVos in charge of the Department of Education was a disaster waiting to happen and it was only a matter of time before things went from bad to worse. Last week, DeVos announced Candice Jackson as her pick to head up the Office of Civil Rights—a position for which Jackson has absolutely no experience or qualifications whatsoever; leaving us almost certain that this move is actually intended to gut rather than protect the civil rights of the nation’s students. And today’s news is even less encouraging. Given DeVos’s stance on character development in schools and preference for charter and private schools, experts say we have great cause to worry about the future of the school-to-prison pipeline under DeVos’s leadership.
The school-to-prison pipeline is a huge problem funneling so-called “problem children” out of the classroom and into the juvenile justice system—disproportionately impacting kids of color, poor kids, kids with special needs and kids from single parent homes. When kids are forced out of the classroom and treated like criminals, often for minor infractions such as wearing the wrong uniform, truancy and schoolyard fights, this can set them down a dangerous path that studies show makes them more likely to fall behind in their classwork, drop out of school and end up in the criminal justice system. It also has a financial cost, as it costs way more to incarcerate kids than it does to keep them in the classroom and educate them.