The Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School to Prison Pipeline (Gwinnett SToPP) formed to lead a parent-driven, community-centered partnership approach to dismantling the school to prison pipeline in Gwinnett County.
The mission of Gwinnett SToPP is to build and strengthen relationships with the community in two constructive ways – parent/community advocacy training and policy-change facilitation.
The School to Prison Pipeline (STPP) is a national trend wherein students are funneled out of their regular education setting and into alternative education and the juvenile and criminal justice systems. The STPP disproportionately affects students of color, students with disabilities, males, and students from low-wealth backgrounds. Several policy trends in the public education and juvenile justice systems have contributed to this nationwide epidemic:
over-criminalization of youth through zero-tolerance policies/practices,
criminalization of school rule violations,
- incentives created by high stakes testing for schools to push out low performing students,
- and schools bypassing due-process protections for children.
Gwinnett SToPP formed in April 2007 to answer growing frustration with the number of schools relying on harsh punishment, and law enforcement to address minor school misconduct. Gwinnett County Public Schools has well over 1,400 children enrolled in alternative schools. Gwinnett’s population has doubled since 1990, while its inmate population has increased six times.
Gwinnett SToPP spent its first year organizing, forming our mission, creating goals, and gathering data. Upon completion, the public education and monitoring of policies began. We have been actively engaged in fulfilling the awareness and education tenets of our mission while promoting policy changes.
Some of the policy changes that Gwinnett SToPP and its organization partners have successfully lobbied for include:
- Eliminated the contact quota for GCPS School Resource Officers.
- Participated in the development of a community‐based review of the disciplinary code of conduct revision.
- Instigated a policy change to provide transparency and increased education equity for every other district in the state regarding Investing in Educational Excellence (IE2) contracts that the Georgia Department of Education makes with school systems. We also closed the loophole that Gwinnett County Public Schools (GCPS) used to amend their IE2 contract without public review.
- Denoted Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) violations in the GCPS Student/Parent Handbook that could result in a referral to a School Resource Officer and possible criminal charges.
- Successfully advocated for the inclusion of school discipline in the state’s report cards.
- Reviewed and rewrote (with other organizations) the Georgia Department of Education’s alternative school rules.
- Mounted a successful campaign to challenge the creation of a proposed disciplinary alternative program for elementary school students and increased public transparency for this issue.
- Supported the Safe Schools Initiative that dramatically changed the use of restraint and seclusion in Georgia schools.
Members of the coalition, in addition to parents, include the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, Atlanta Community Engagement Network (ACEN), Interfaith Children’s Movement, and other community stakeholders.