Trapped in a Pipeline: The Plight of Too Many Children and Youth (Exposing the School-to-Prison Pipeline)

  • Karen Myers James Madison University
Keywords: school-to-prison pipeline, restorative justice, narrative poetry, elementary schools, LGBTQ students, zero tolerance, Child Welfare in Education, School-to-Prison Pipeline, Restorative Justice


The poem that is central to this piece was written to humanize the abstraction of the school-to-prison pipeline. The author, who has worked in public schools over the past two decades, remains troubled by the vulnerable children and youth in our public school systems who increasingly face discriminatory and exclusionary practices, which funnel too many of them into the school-to-prison pipeline. The poem is preceded by a brief overview of the author’s experiences and followed by observations and reflections about the young people hurtling through the pipeline. Hope is found in the possibilities presented by more restorative policies and practices.

Author Biography

Karen Myers, James Madison University
Karen Myers is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at James Madison University, teaching required practice and elective social work courses. With a J.D./M.S.W. from New York University, she is particulary interested in the intersection of law and social work and the need for restorative practices that promote resilience and transformation rather than punitive practies that foster dependency and isolation. Prior to entering academia, she worked in various legal, social service, and educational settings. Whether she was working with inmates on Mississippi's death row, homeless women and children on the streets of New Orleans, young people involved in the criminal justice system in New York City, or students receiving the brunt of zero tolerance policies in Harrisonburg, Virginia, she was struck by the need for more restorative processes, which build community by recognizing the dignity and worth of every human being and the importance of respectful relationships. Informed by her years of practice, her teaching, service, and scholarship focus on exploring ways to enhance social justice by challenging power imbalances and calling for institutional accountability.