Baton Rouge judge to speak at Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline luncheon

Leaders of non-profit group look to keep kids from going from school to prison

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Juvenile Court Judge Gail Grover of the 19th Judicial District will speak at the Volunteers In Public Schools’ (VIPS) Dismantling the School to Prison Pipeline on Tuesday, Feb. 18.

Most kids will spend the majority of their day dedicated towards learning, but at some point, experts say there’s a disconnect. Kaia Simmons, director of VIPS says over 75% of state prison inmates are high school dropouts.

Kristie Perry, assistant professor of sociology at Southern University in Baton Rouge, says having a negative home environment can impact behavior at school.

“It’s not individual teachers, it’s systematic,” Perry said. “When we look at the disadvantaged backgrounds that students are coming from.”

Perry has researched the school to prison pipeline theory.

Simmons says the problem is when schools go straight to harsh punishments. For instance, punishing a kid for constantly missing school, but ignoring what might be contributing to the problem could be the beginning of the prison cycle.

“It’s a disproportionate tendency for children and youth that are coming from disadvantaged backgrounds to be incarcerated because of the harsh policies of within the school system," said Simmons.

“If we have problem in our school system and then our kids are sent to jail, resource officer, or juvenile justice system, how are we teaching them to deal with those problems? We’re introducing them into the criminal justice system. Research is finding that once they’ve been introduced, then about a year later they’re more likely to be a part of that system,” Perry added.

The answer, Simmons and Perry say isn’t cookie cutter. It’s based on the student. That’s why she says policies in the school system need some tweaking. To fix that, she says the community needs to be part of the conversation.

The luncheon will be held at the main branch of the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Library on Goodwood Boulevard from 11: 30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Feb. 18. Tickets for the event are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Tickets may be purchased by clicking here.

Grover is scheduled to discuss statistics about Louisiana’s prison population, including the fact over 75% of the inmates are self-identified high school dropouts, according to organizers.

Organizers say Grover will also discuss such issues as truancy in the juvenile court system, and how zero-tolerance school discipline policies disproportionately affect students of color and those with disabilities.

The luncheon will also feature a question and answer session with Grover.

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