Disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline with trauma-informed, school-based diversion programs

When schools practice harsh discipline and remove students from the school (e.g., through out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, arrests for minor offenses, etc.), it can lead to students’ involvement with the juvenile justice system.  This school-to-prison pipeline disproportionately affects minority students, students with mental illnesses and behavioral issues, students with disabilities, and students with histories of abuse and neglect. 

Multiple studies have shown that youth involved in the juvenile justice system report a higher prevalence of exposure to Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)—traumatic experiences, such as abuse and neglect, that negatively affect a child’s development—compared to youth in the general population.  Exposure to ACEs can contribute to the development of serious and long-lasting health and behavioral problems. Yet, while justice-involved youth are at higher risk for academic issues, substance abuse, and child welfare involvement, many of the professionals who interact with them daily are not trauma-informed.  

In order to quickly identify youth who are at risk for entering the juvenile justice system, professionals -- such as school administrators, teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, law enforcement, and courts – need to be better informed about the impact of childhood trauma. And that’s where we come in.

For more than thirty years, PCG’s team has worked with school districts, child welfare, juvenile justice, and disability agencies across the country to improve outcomes and position youth for success. We are passionate about the evolving neuroscience of child development and executive function, and we understand how childhood trauma can impact both executive function and brain development. By leveraging this knowledge and experience, we help diversion teams to better understand the ways trauma impacts executive function and brain development, how this manifests in specific behaviors, and the long term impacts of trauma on social, educational and health outcomes. 

Click here to learn more about our trauma-informed approach to disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline.