Journal of Sustainable Social Change




Zero-tolerance discipline policies led to the introduction of police on school campuses and have resulted in a disproportionate number of in-school arrests and referrals of Black middle-school students, subjecting them to the school-to-prison pipeline. Data shows the negative effects of zero tolerance; however, less is known regarding alternative evidence-based strategies such as the Juvenile Detention Alternatives Initiative (JDAI). Grounded in the labeling theoretical framework, this study examined whether JDAI status (pre-JDAI and post-JDAI) could predict arrests and referrals while controlling for race, gender, and age. Secondary data were collected from a juvenile court in northwest Georgia on 1,303 middle-school students. The students who formed this purposive sample for the study were arrested or referred 2 years prior to the implementation of the JDAI School Referral Reduction Program and 2 recent years post-JDAI. Binary logistic regressions were conducted for each of the outcomes of arrests and referrals to ascertain the predictive relationships of JDAI, race, gender, and age. The results found only gender and age to be significant predictors of arrests and referrals. However, additional findings reported Black students were 89.4% of the students arrested or referred to the juvenile court, and 93.2% of those arrests and referrals occurred during the 2-year period pre-JDAI. This research is significant for stakeholders involved in education and juvenile justice reform who want to positively effect social change through the use of programs and policies that narrow the academic achievement gap and reduce the disproportionate number of Black students’ contact with the criminal justice system.