Among the several terms and phrases that populate the educational literature, both lay and professional, the phrase school-to-prison pipeline is without doubt the dominant, with few challengers in sight. Much like at-risk, or eight hour retarded child, linking specific school policies to subsequent incarceration captures the disturbing and seemingly entrenched statistics on racial inequity in schooling, doing so in a crisp imagery of a pipeline. With such a physical imagery, the phrase implies, or advances a causal connection between school practices and racial disparity of the harshest kind. It is no longer enough that minority and low-income students are at risk, mainly of dropping out; rather, the risks are now made conspicuously real and gravely consequential.
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