Philadelphia Rethinks its School-to-Prison Pipeline Just in Time for #ReentryMonth


Over the past decade, Philadelphia School District has been reevaluating its policies regarding criminal behavior and students. From 2002-2014, the district had a zero tolerance policy for crime, meaning that students were arrested at their first instance of violence. This policy stripped school administrators of their discretional power and landed thousands of youth in jail.

In 2014, the Philadelphia School District adopted the Philadelphia Police School Diversion Program, which averted more than 1,000 arrests between 2014 and 2016. Kate Burdick, an attorney at our nonprofit partner organization, Juvenile Law Center, explains that zero tolerance policies just don’t work; they lead to “significant adverse effects such as severely disrupt[ing] a student’s academic progress”.

To smooth the transition process, Burdick recommends that schools implement individual contacts for students and a detailed graduation plan. Thus far, Philadelphia has incorporated a Student Transition Center, which holds a probation officer, school personnel, and representatives from the Department of Human Services and Community Behavioral Health.

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