McNair Scholars Research Journal


According to Owings (1988), the term “at-risk” refers to a student who is more likely to fail in school based on factors such as low academic achievement, attendance, or behavioral issues, however other factors place students at-risk, such as substance abuse, violence, trauma, and involvement with the criminal justice system. This literature review examines the impact of mentoring as an intervention to support students who are facing academic, social, or emotional challenges in school. These students may be at greater risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline (STPP). There is a gap in the literature on how mentoring programs can promote positive outcomes both in and out of school among students who are at greater risk of entering the STPP. As in higher education, students in K-12 schools benefit from specific support to promote successful outcomes. With the widespread increase of zero-tolerance policies, students are often suspended, or even expelled, at alarming rates and, as a result, miss valuable hours of instructional time. Historically, students were excluded from school for behavior such as fighting, assault, harassment, vandalism, and destruction of school property (Kupchik & Monahan, 2006). Under zero-tolerance policies, students are also excluded from school for non-violent behavior, such as verbal harassment, disobedience, insubordination, obscene language, and truancy (Marsh, 2014). This literature review focuses on zerotolerance policies, the school-to-prison pipeline, and the impact of mentoring on school-aged youth as an intervention to support those who are facing challenges in school.