07/21/2011 03:18 pm ET Updated Sep 20, 2011

Duncan And Holder Announce Federal Initiative To Curb School-To-Prison Pipeline

A new federal initiative will aim to curb the "school-to-prison" pipeline that students fall into, beginning with in-school disciplinary action that leads to the justice system.

According to a statement released by the Department of Education Thursday, The Supportive School Discipline Initiative looks to:

  1. Build consensus for action among feral, state and local education and justice stakeholders
  2. Collaborate on research and data collection that may be needed to inform this work, such as evaluations of alternative disciplinary policies and interventions
  3. Develop guidance to ensure that school discipline policies and practices comply with the nation's civil rights laws and to promote positive disciplinary options to both keep kids in school and improve the climate for learning
  4. Promote awareness and knowledge about evidence-based and promising policies and practices among state judicial and education leadership

The Departments of Justice and Education will look to collaborate with nonprofit and philanthropic organizations to execute the initiative.

"Ensuring that our educational system is a doorway to opportunity - and not a point of entry to our criminal justice system - is a critical, and achievable, goal," Attorney General Eric Holder said in the statement Thursday. "By bringing together government, law enforcement, academic, and community leaders, I'm confident that we can make certain that school discipline policies are enforced fairly and do not become obstacles to future growth, progress, and achievement."

This announcement comes amid questions surrounding whether school disciplinary policies are yielding their desired and intended results.

A study released Tuesday in Texas showed that more than half of the state's students had been suspended or expelled between 7th and 12th grades. Many of those students were funneled through the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, as a large proportion of those who had been disciplined in school were involved in the juvenile justice system.