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I’d love to hear the 911 call for the water balloon fight. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so disturbing.

Is there supposed to be a straight line from playground to prison?

The water balloon incident happened in May 2013

When police were called to get kids to stop throwing water balloons at Enloe High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, seven kids got charged with misdemeanors: Six for disorderly conduct and the seventh for assault and battery after throwing a water balloon at a school security officer. A parent who protested was arrested.

Alarmingly, cops being called on kids in school isn't as unusual as you might think. The days of just going to the principal's office — and that's it — are over in some schools.



School administrators around the U.S. are getting tougher with misbehaving kids, meting out suspensions, expulsions, and even arrests.

The evidence suggests that these punishments are having a terrible lifelong impact on the students.

It puts them into the so-called "school-to prison pipeline."

It's not even like the schools are necessarily going after kids for serious things, either.

95% of out-of-school suspensions are for non-violent misbehaviors.


The dangerous result is that every one of these kids gets the message:


Once that happens, it's a slippery slope.


  • Kids who get sent to juvenile detention centers are 67% more likely to be back in jail by the time they're 25.

Certain groups receive the bulk of the discipline, making this even more troubling.

Wade County, North Carolina, has one of the most active school-to-prison pipelines. In that school, 40% of black kids caught with cellphones were suspended while only 17% of the white kids caught were punished with suspension.

Only 29% of public school kids are black and Latino, and yet they receive 70% of the in-school arrests.

Special needs students are often caught up in this, too.

32% of the kids in juvenile detention centers are special needs kids.

They're often sent there for their special-needs behaviors.

Are all schools involved in this?

Thankfully, no.

But as America tries to improve its education system — and as administrators try to deal with behavior challenges — the school-to-prison pipeline makes it clear that too often kids are being set up for a dark, hopeless future. There must be a better way to deal with kids acting out. For now, the school-to-prison pipeline is one of the reasons the U.S. jails more people than any other country.

Here's Brave New Films' explanation of the school-to-prison pipeline:

This story first appeared on the author's Medium and is reprinted here with permission.

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