Frost Teaches School-to-Prison Pipeline Graduate Class
December 16, 2010
By Brandon Curl
Dr. Lynda Frost, director of planning and programs at the Hogg Foundation, has teamed up with senior lecturer Dr. Michele Deitch and doctoral student Heather Cole to teach a graduate course on the school-to-prison pipeline at The University of Texas at Austin this fall.
The course, offered through the university’s Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs, investigates the troubling link between school disciplinary problems and later contact with the juvenile justice system. Students analyze how policies and practices of schools and government agencies have negatively impacted youth, especially children of color and those with behavioral health challenges.
“If you look at the statistics or go to juvenile court, you recognize the disproportionate representation of minority and special education students,” said Frost. “Are these the only kids acting out? Of course not. It’s clear that something’s not right here.”
The class of 18 includes graduate students from the LBJ School of Public Affairs, School of Law, School of Social Work and College of Education. Frost cites the interdisciplinary nature of the course as a significant strength, encouraging students to move beyond their primary field to analyze issues from other perspectives.
She mentions Texas Appleseed, the Disability Issues Committee of the State Bar of Texas, and the work of the Hogg Foundation as the inspiration for the course.
“For years, the Hogg Foundation has raised concerns about the disproportionate number of children with behavioral health challenges in school disciplinary and juvenile justice settings,” said Frost.
Over the course of the semester, students engage in discussion around recent research and policy reports, speak with prominent legislative advocates and Texas officials, and venture out of the classroom to visit courts, juvenile correctional facilities and a disciplinary alternative educational program.
“It is difficult — if not impossible — to speak insightfully about education and juvenile justice policy if you have never seen disciplinary, judicial, and correctional settings from the inside,” said Frost.
In addition to obtaining better understandings of real world impacts of policy decisions, Frost hopes her students build skills in writing and policy analysis that can be used beyond the classroom. She said teaching the course has been personally and professionally rewarding and plans to teach it again with Deitch next fall.