School-to-Prison Pipeline

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We believe our schools must holistically support young people to strive for college and careers—not put them on a path to prison.

Truancy is the largest driver of youth contact with Ohio courts. When a student is suspended, they are more likely to be expelled, drop out, and end up in the juvenile justice system and an ongoing cycle of recidivism as an adult. Students of color, low-income students, and students with disabilities are far more likely than their white and wealthier peers to be suspended.

Through our organizing, we are replacing policies that punish and criminalize with cultures of care and collective responsibility.

Our Work

Since 2012, OOC has fought to end the school-to-prison pipeline--the policies and practices that push students out of school and on a path to prison, including:

  • harsh school discipline policies that overuse suspension and expulsion for minor offenses,

  • increased policing and surveillance that create prison-like environments in schools, and

  • over-reliance on referrals to law enforcement and the juvenile justice system.

We organize for restorative justice programs, trauma-informed care, and community-based violence interventions that shift the dominant narrative around crime and conflict and our response to them. Restorative justice repairs the harm done by conflict and crime, requires offenders to take responsibility for their actions, and allows all involved parties to participate in finding a resolution. Trauma-informed care treats the whole person, taking into account their past traumas and coping mechanisms. 

These strategies lead to transformative changes in people, relationships, and communities. And we are seeing powerful results in the Ohio schools where we have successfully increased their use.


  • In 2018,we  passed local policies banning out-of-school suspensions for kids in third grade and below. 

  • In 2017, OOC organizers and leaders in Columbus became members of the Columbus Care Coalition, a coalition of agencies and community organizations convened by the Columbus Public Health Department to build a more trauma-informed community and invest in community-based interventions. After organizing a campaign to scale back aggressive policing programs and reinvest public dollars in proven methods that keep communities safe, the Coalition received funding for a pilot program to expand trauma recovery services in priority neighborhoods throughout the city. 

  • In 2017, we partnered with the Juvenile Justice Coalition to build a grassroots restorative justice coalition called Restore CBUS--a coalition of educators, direct service providers, community-based organizations, faith leaders, young people, and caring adults committed to educating and implementing restorative practices as alternatives to suspensions, expulsions, and court involvement. This coalition has trained staff from every Columbus City School building on restorative justice.

  • In 2016, OOC worked with policy partners including the Juvenile Justice Coalition to pass a statewide truancy bill, creating absence intervention teams in schools to prevent initial contact with the courts due to truancy.