This research will examine how recent disciplinary, mentoring, and testing-based interventions may impact the educational outcomes of youth facing challenges in K-12 schools. In the United States, failing educational systems may unintentionally channel poor and minority youth toward a trajectory that makes them vulnerable to involvement in the juvenile justice system, due to punitive disciplinary policies and practices that push students out of school. This exclusion from school can put students at greater risk of entering the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which has garnered nationwide attention and is an issue facing schools across the country (Witt, 2007).
The impact of exclusion and harsh disciplinary practices in schools can have devastating consequences for minority youth. Research underscores the importance of addressing this issue by providing alternatives, such as mentoring or afterschool programs, or through school behavioral interventions to counter this alarming trend. “Although a strong body of research exists on the risks for delinquency, few studies have attempted to understand the variables within schools that exacerbate or counteract these risks” (Christle, Jolivette, & Nelson, 2005, p. 69). Christle et al. (2005) identified academic failure, exclusionary discipline practices, and dropout as key elements in the “school-to-prison pipeline.” This literature review will focus on zero-tolerance policies, the school-toprison pipeline, negative impacts on student learning, and the impact of mentoring as an intervention with students who may be facing challenges in K-12 schools.