(Gwinnett County, Georgia) – The Gwinnett Parent Coalition to Dismantle the School-to-Prison Pipeline was formed in 2007 to lead a parent-driven, community-centered partnership approach to dismantling the school-to-prison pipeline in Gwinnett County. Its mission is to build and strengthen relationships with the community through public awareness, empowerment and advocacy.
The school-to-prison pipeline is the funneling of children of color, poor children and children with learning disabilities or learning differences from the public school system into juvenile and criminal justice systems, partially due to zero-tolerance school discipline policies and practices and more. Specifically, an increasing number of concerned parents, advocates and students in Gwinnett say that the Gwinnett Intervention Education Center East is teaching kids how to go to prison. The alternative school is part of the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Support (GNETS) system. The 24 psychoeducational programs – or GNETS – serve more than 3,000 students with behavioral, intellectual and neurological disorders.
Executive director and co-founder of Gwinnett SToPP, Marlyn Tillman explains, “There are kids there who may need a different learning environment, but to put it in the words a student said, I don’t think it should be teaching kids how to go to jail.”
Gwinnett SToPP is fighting for equity in the county’s education system through data accountability, advocacy and policy reform, with the help of a grant from the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities (GCDD).
The goal of this project is to develop and implement a plan to reduce the number of African American males in special education classes who are at risk of being pushed out of school and into juvenile and criminal justice systems, while levering the existing grassroots, community-based coalition.
Gwinnett SToPP hosts advocacy training workshops to increase public awareness of the injustice that children face within the educational system and the judicial process. There is also an annual parent leadership institute that empowers parents by developing coordinated parent project teams to drive school discipline reform and advocates for policy changes through data accountability and fact-based incident reporting. These serve to support and strengthen educational equity while dismantling the school to prison pipeline.
Taking its advocacy further, GCDD will host a SToPP Advocacy Day on February 27, 2020 at the Georgia State Capitol to educate and inform lawmakers and support policy initiatives aimed at reducing the number of students being placed in the school-to-prison pipeline and look forward to the recommendations of the Senate Study Committee on Educational Development of African American Children in Georgia.
Learn more about Gwinnett SToPP and their initiatives in GCDD’s Making A Difference Winter 2020 magazine.
To help raise awareness for SToPP and find your advocacy voice, up for the 2020 Asigndvocacy Days.