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The Role of Culture in the School-to-Prison Pipeline


Philosophers define justice as a central element of social institutions that upholds human rights. In the context of school, it means that all students should be treated equally and feel valued. However, it is not true for many American young people. The school-to-prison pipeline has made a significant influence on the way children are treated at schools. This paper examines the topic from the perspective of two articles investigating the reasons why the problem has become so acute, and the solutions it can have.

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Philosophical Aspects of the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The review provided in this paper is based on two articles regarding the different aspects of the problem. As philosophy is a broad discipline, the documents show different approaches to the school-to-prison pipeline. The paper is concentrated on the socio-philosophical elements of the system. It investigates people’s social behaviors, the cultural factors and its interpretations affecting the decision-making processes.

The Role of Culture in the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The first article explores the connection between school dropout and imprisonment, as well as suggests solutions to the school-to-prison pipeline problem. Cramer, Gonzalez, and Pellegrini-Lafont (2014) report that the criminal justice system is initially targeted at minorities and the poor as it focuses rather on punishment than prevention. Research shows that teachers determine disturbing behavior based not only on children’s behavior but their personal beliefs and stereotypes, as well as the decision-making practices within schools. Zero-tolerance policies implemented in schools are also discriminative and targeted against students of color and those with disabilities.

Cramer et al. (2014) point out the role cultural background plays in students’ performance. Cultural marginalization is a link between dropout and imprisonment. Teachers impose white and middle-class values on their students regardless of their race and social status, showing the biased attitude towards minorities and not respecting their identities. As a result, students are punished for misbehavior according to the wrong standards. Cramer et al. (2014) suggest the Integrated Learning Model as a solution for the prejudices associated with the school-to-prison pipeline. It is based on the following principles: all students can equally contribute to the learning process, the cultural value should be addressed from various perspectives, cultural capital is not exclusively hierarchal, and all students can use their cultural assets regardless of their social status, ethnicity, and race. The other solution the authors suggest is culturally responsive teaching. Teachers should be aware of the effect of their cultural socialization, learn to build culturally pluralistic classrooms and support multicultural communication.

Teachers’ Power Role in the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The second article studies the role of teachers’ power in the school-to-prison pipeline. It is reported that misunderstandings about appropriate classroom interaction often form educators’ view on disruptive behavior, and sometimes is judged more seriously than students’ learning abilities. The article addresses a so-called “disciplinary gap”, which, according to Pane, Rocco, Miller, and Salmon (2014), is inequality in disciplinary approach based on systematic racial bias (p. 299). Reportedly, students of color are treated differently from others. The paper shows that African American students are punished for excessive noise, disrespect, and disobedience, which are subjective cases. Their white classmates, however, are mostly referred to for objective behavior, such as smoking or property abuse. It reveals the discriminative nature of the school-to-prison pipeline and the way teachers support it.

The article also explains how culture as a set of social practices influences classroom relationship. The way teachers view culture is a shaping factor of their attitude towards their students. The paper provided the study of four classrooms and behavioral tendencies within them. In all of them, teachers viewed culture as student’s static identities, not a set of social factors, and had prejudice concerning their learning abilities. The research also shows that some educators’ tendencies to write referrals were correlated with the classroom relationship expectations. Those who wrote referrals expected passivity from the students and believed that people were unlikely to change. Neither of them encouraged students’ identity and cultural development.

Evaluative Commentary

Both articles provide valuable insights into the mechanisms of the school-to-prison pipeline. They address the socio-philosophical aspects of the problem. Both papers show that culture plays an essential role in forming the punitive system. The first article’s weak point is that it offers a reasonable solution to the problem of the school-to-prison pipeline. The authors explain in detail what steps can be made to eliminate its negative influence on students. Both the Integrated Learning Model and culturally responsive teaching are the methods that can be realistically implemented within schools. The weakness of the article is its narrow point of view as it discusses only the cultural side of the problem. The second paper is notable for its detailed study of the teachers’ role through four teachers from different schools. The provided examples show how discrimination is rooted in the school system. The drawback of the article is the lack of suggested solutions to the problem.

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In conclusion, I want to point out that both articles were highly informative to me. I have learned how cultural aspects shape both students’ and teachers’ behaviors and decisions. It is essential to understand that the school-to-prison pipeline is based on many social factors and cannot be recognized as only an outcome of harsh disciplinary policies. Understanding the social and cultural factors behind it is crucial for the elimination of its consequences.


Cramer, E. D., Gonzalez, L., & Pellegrini-Lafont, C. (2014). From classmates to inmates: An integrated approach to break the school-to-prison pipeline. Equity & Excellence in Education, 47(4), 461-475.

Pane, D. M., Rocco, T. S., Miller, L. D., & Salmon, A. K. (2014). How teachers use power in the classroom to avoid or support exclusionary school discipline practices. Urban Education, 49(3), 297-328.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, December 26). The Role of Culture in the School-to-Prison Pipeline.

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"The Role of Culture in the School-to-Prison Pipeline." StudyCorgi, 26 Dec. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "The Role of Culture in the School-to-Prison Pipeline." December 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "The Role of Culture in the School-to-Prison Pipeline." December 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "The Role of Culture in the School-to-Prison Pipeline." December 26, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'The Role of Culture in the School-to-Prison Pipeline'. 26 December.

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