Education is crime prevention

March 7, 2011

Youth who have unmet or inadequately met special education needs are more likely to experience academic failure and drop out of school. Unmet educational needs and academic failure place students at risk of being suspended and expelled from school for behaviors that are manifestations of a disability. Students who are suspended or expelled are more likely to drop out of school. Students who drop out of school are more likely to experience involvement with the juvenile justice system and become incarcerated. Incarcerated youth are more likely to engage in future delinquent behavior and have contact with the adult criminal justice system. 

Students who do not graduate from high school have reduced earning capacity, are more likely to be unemployed, and are over-represented in the criminal justice system. IN CONTRAST, the 68% of students who graduate from high school have increased earning capacity and are less likely to participate in welfare programs. High school graduation reduces violent crime by 20%, property crimes by 11%, and drug crimes by 12%. (See generally, School Bias and Pushout Fact Sheet, Schools for All Campaign, available at:

The unfortunate reality is that some schools are not welcoming places for students with special education disabilities – and data indicates that is particularly true if they are students of color.

Pushing these youth into the juvenile court system is not an evidence-based practice for helping youth experience academic success and become productive citizens. Many schools have shown that keeping these youth in school and appropriately addressing their needs so they can attain educational benefits is far more effective. So why don’t all schools follow their lead? And how can juvenile courts push back on schools that don’t?

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