November 21, 2013
On October 20, four students in Professor Emily Chiang’s Public Policy Clinic, Trace Downey, Mary Milner, Maureen Minson and Christopher Pieper, published an op-ed in The Salt Lake Tribune.
Their editorial, “Don’t Suspend kids for behavior; it makes them drop out,” focuses on the “overuse of discipline in schools” a practice that the authors argue contributes to high dropout rates and other societal ills. To support their claim, the authors quote a Utah Criminal Justice Center study that found that one out of three inmates in the Utah State Prison is a high school dropout.
In conclusion, the authors write, “We want Utah to be able to meet the challenges of the future by preparing all of its students for graduation, not the criminal justice system. We were lucky enough to make it to law school — but we want all students to have the chance to shine.”
Chiang, who said she was “incredibly proud” of their efforts, explained, "The students in my clinic have worked very hard to bring the school-to-prison pipeline problems in Utah to light. They have demonstrated great dedication and I hope their efforts will help to move the public policy on education in this state."
Students in the Public Policy Practicum also authored a similar op-ed in Spanish. It introduces the audience to the concept of the school-to-prison pipeline, which disproportionately affects students of color. Latino students have a 35% dropout rate in Utah and English Language Learners have a 49% dropout rate. Latino students are also three times more likely to face school discipline than their white counterparts. The Spanish-language op-ed brings these numbers to light and emphasizes to parents the importance of partnering with their children and with the schools to make sure their children stay in school.