Spring 2017 - 61373 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy | LBJ School of Public Affairs | The University of Texas at Austin

Spring 2017 - 61373 - PA388K - Advanced Topics in Public Policy

Race, Leadership & the School-to-Prison Pipeline

This class is cross-listed with EDA. EDA is the home department.
Recent academic research and policy reports have illuminated a troubling correlation between school disciplinary issues and later contact with the juvenile justice system. A variety of educational policies influence the number of children and youth who end up in secure correctional settings. This course analyzes policies and practices in elementary, middle, and high school that impact the success of youth – especially children of color and children with behavioral health challenges – in educational and disciplinary placements. It identifies aspects of the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems that intersect with the educational system and create a so-called pipeline for these youth to enter the criminal justice system. It thus examines the disproportionate impact of these policies on children of color and those with special education needs and explores means to promote better outcomes for these youth. To enhance students’ understanding of these issues, the seminar may include several site visits and guest speakers from the front lines of policy change on these issues.

The interdisciplinary seminar format of the class will provide intensive exposure to current challenges and reform efforts in Texas and the nation. The early weeks of the course will provide students an opportunity to explore their own development of racial awareness, thus promoting a capacity to process race more deeply and understand how it might impact their practice. The course will proceed to an overview of the pipeline, identifying characteristics of the youth that end up in correctional placements and examining early indications of trauma and maladaptation as well as the schools’ responses to perceived “problem behavior.” Next, we will analyze school disciplinary systems from initial interventions to out-of-school placements. We will examine programs in the community, in schools, and in courts that provide positive interventions leading to improved outcomes for youth. In the end, students should understand problematic policies and start to develop more constructive approaches to educating all students.

The course has five primary objectives:

  1. To help students develop a deeper understanding of racial awareness and its impact on their analysis and interpretation of policy;
  2. To expose students to policies and practices in public education and juvenile justice and develop students’ abilities to analyze the policies’ impact on youth;
  3. To give students the opportunity to apply their research and analytic skills to real-world settings and issues;
  4. To provide students with the opportunity to learn different policy writing styles; and
  5. To encourage students to think critically about current policy issues from an interdisciplinary perspective.

Requirements and expectations:

This class will be conducted as a seminar and it is dependent upon an informed and lively discussion.  Students are required to attend all classes, do all the reading, and participate in class discussions.  Class attendance and participation will be considered in grading.  Writing assignments may include a racial autobiography, short reflection papers, an analysis of a policy, an interview with a practicing educational leader, and an issue brief on a subject of the student's choice. 


The course will have two primary texts, an academic textbook and a biography (Being Bad: My Baby Brother and the School-to-Prison Pipeline by Crystal Laura). Additional supplemental reading materials will be posted in Canvas.

Class Schedule: 
9:00AM to 12:00PM
SZB 380