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An Analysis OF Zero Tolerance Weapon Policies Related To The School-To-Prison Pipeline Phenomenon

McAbee, Cheryl/R (2019) An Analysis OF Zero Tolerance Weapon Policies Related To The School-To-Prison Pipeline Phenomenon. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Pennsylvania schools adopted zero tolerance weapon policies to comply with the federal Gun-Free Schools Act (1994). Weapon definitions in school policies are broader than federal or Pennsylvania statutory definitions, and disproportionately affect racial minority students (Joint State Government Commission, 2016) and low income students and precipitate the school-to-prison pipeline (Giroux, 2003).
Twelve Allegheny County school districts’ weapon definitions and high schools were studied utilizing a socio-ecological model to examine external socio-economic status and internal weapon policy (Capp et al., 2017). The purpose of the study was to determine if weapon definitions and memorandum of understanding (MOU) creation and implementation is influenced by socio-economic status and race. Schools’ economic disadvantage was used to designate six as working class and six as affluent.
Findings were first, all schools had a weapon policy broader than the Pennsylvania statute. Second, Office for Safe Schools (OSS) Historical Comparison Report Data demonstrated that the working class schools had over four times the arrests as affluent schools while law enforcement was called only twice as many times; working class schools had over four times the referrals to alternate education for disruptive youth, two times the out-of-school suspensions, and five times the expulsions as the affluent schools. Third, no schools were updating policies based on court decisions and interpretation of weapon policies. Fourth, while each district was required to have an MOU with local law enforcement and provide explanations to OSS for substantive differences, one district had none, and two districts provided no explanation for differences. Fifth, applying the OSS analyzes to 12 Dauphin County schools revealed similar results, law enforcement was called to the affluent schools almost one-third more, while twice as many students were arrested in the working class schools.
The socio-ecological implications are that low income and racial minority students were affected by expansive district weapons policies more than their counterparts in affluent districts and all districts need increased oversight. The number of racial minority students entering the criminal justice system from schools implies that criminal justice reform must be accompanied by educational reform and zero tolerance policies expose schools to claims of educational malpractice.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
McAbee, Cheryl/Rcrm121@pitt.educrm121
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGarman, Noreenngarman@pitt.edungarman
Committee CoChairGunzenhauser, Michaelmgunzen@pitt.edumgunzen
Committee MemberLongo, R. Geraldlongoj@pitt.edulongoj
Committee MemberSmiley,
Date: 30 January 2019
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 26 November 2018
Approval Date: 30 January 2019
Submission Date: 29 January 2019
Access Restriction: 1 year -- Restrict access to University of Pittsburgh for a period of 1 year.
Number of Pages: 165
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: School of Education > Administrative and Policy Studies
Degree: EdD - Doctor of Education
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: zero tolerance policies, Gun-Free Schools Act, weapon policies, socio-ecological approach, memorandum of understanding, discipline, Office for Safe Schools, school safety, local law enforcement, school-to-prison pipeline, cradle-to-prison pipeline, militarization, juvenile justice system, juvenile incarceration, alternative education for disruptive youth, Pennsylvania weapon statute, federal firearm statute, school resource officer, school law, active shooter, racial discrimination, restorative justice, mental health, educational reform, criminal justice reform, educational malpractice, collaboration
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2019 23:14
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 06:15


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