Kindergarten Criminals

Artist Statement: Uncle Sam and the School to Prison Pipeline

By: Amber Lee, Justin Owens, Sarah Marlin, Kyla Butler

Our group chose to research the school to prison pipeline.  This is a metaphor used to describe the pattern of youth being pushed out of school, through high rates of suspension and expulsion, and into the criminal justice system; particularly youth of color, young people with disabilities, and impoverished adolescents. For our research question, we wanted to determine if the pipeline existed, and if it did, specifically how it affected people based on race, age, gender, and socio-economic status. This is a critically important topic because of the lasting impact it has our nation’s youth. These are the leaders of their generation, and as we expect them to success us, we must help them maintain these roles of leadership and inspire our young to change them, make them unique and innovative. They already have an important voice, we must listen; they already are in these positions of leadership and belonging, we must support them; it is not our duty to “develop” them in any way but to rather help them in their journey of discovery. “Making” leaders of tomorrow is easy when a force of power already flows through them.

Through our research, we discovered high rates of incarceration in respects to other countries – and within these high rates, a disproportion between people of color and whites. Over half of the United States prison population is Black and Hispanic. Kids of color are proven to be at higher risk of being suspended or expelled for minor infractions under zero-tolerance policies, actual legislation that shows itself to be some of the biggest contributors to this pipeline. One such policy is the No Child Left Behind Act that threatens schools’ federal funding if “trailing” students, e.g. students of color and/or with a disability, did not meet certain “academic standards” determined by constant standardized testing. If so, the school would then have to jump through copious hoops to avoid losing their funding, usually the only source of money that keeps the school running.

In this project, we offer a definition of the pipeline, a comparison of the impacts on based on race, and imagine the experience of existing in the pipeline through a narrative. We also created an original video comprised of interviews from faculty and staff at Berkeley High School to get a better understanding of how people in our school and community view and understand the school to prison pipeline. A final element of our project is a satirical pastiche that spins Uncle Sam into a symbol for these laws and policies. 

The School to Prison Pipeline

This essay defines and offers solutions to the school to prison pipeline. Written by Justin Owens.

Learning While Black

This essay compares behavioral differences, courtroom proceedings, drop out rates and parental incarceration (all things that contribute to time spent in prison) between White and Black youth. Written by Amber Lee.


This essay is a fictional account of the school to prion pipeline and its affect on one student. Written by Amber Lee.

May the Source be with You: an Annotated Works Cited

35 Comments Add yours

  1. Destiny says:

    I like the credits that were added to the movie poster


  2. Makhissa says:

    Visually appealing and idk if I left a comment on here previously but ignore it. The Willy Wonka choice movie poster works.


  3. Josh Kluger says:

    This whole situation is so messed up.


  4. Erez Frank says:

    Now that you are done, did you talk to anyone in person who was able to give you examples of how the school to prison pipeline exists today?


  5. London Haines says:

    I liked reading the essay ” The School To Prison Pipeline” because it was interesting reading a student state how she was suspended being in the hall way, it was very instersting


  6. Shayla Smith says:

    Love the theme and concept of th poster I saw Sara adding very detailed touches and it shows a lot. nice


  7. Jade Grisby says:

    I heard about the No Child Left Behind Act before but never knew what it was about but after reading your definition essay I have a better understanding


  8. luke says:

    This helped me better understand how detremental suspentions reeally are. Also the video is funny


  9. Lakaylah says:

    I love the poster,it has a lot of fun elements such as the gavel and I liked how you used Uncle Sam as a key factor


  10. Lakaylah says:

    Amber I really loved the narrative essay


  11. Chaia Wyatt says:

    I thought your poster made a really cool connection with the pipeline and the children at the factory getting sucked up the pipe. The small details are what makes it look really good. It looks like you put a lot of time and thought into it.


  12. Lauren Wood says:

    Willie Wonka was such a good choice for the movie poster and the narrative is really good 🙂


  13. Lauryn Franklin says:

    Avery killed me in the video! Sarah you photoshopped the picture very well.


  14. REBECCA LIN says:

    Love Uncle Sam’s face, it matches so will with the whole poster! And I also learned how horrible the pipe line was.


  15. Giuliani says:

    The zero tolerance law is very shade. how is this even possible?


  16. YESHI GYAMTSO says:

    While reading Justin essay one question I had was, what trainings should the officers get before they are moved to working with children in school?


  17. Tina says:

    I really liked how you chose the Willy Wonka movie poster and how you connected it to the school to prison pip line . The poster came out amazing


  18. kailajenkins17 says:

    Poster is great. This whole situation will forever be messed up!


  19. luwamkidane says:

    I was so shook after reading the narrative essay, it seems like that story line happens to often in real life:(


  20. Devanae adams says:

    Enjoyed reading ambers narrative essay ! Love it !!


  21. Henry Gong says:

    I never knew School to Prison Pipeline is a thing before i read this, but now i have a better understanding of it, it is another form of racism. I like your idp project overall and the presentation.


  22. Indigo says:

    You guys did some great research and revelations about the school to prison pipeline, but how would you solve it?


  23. Marcelo A. says:

    The video was very entertaining, I liked the blooper reel!

    Overall wonderful work!


  24. John says:

    This whole project ties together so well, and shows the power of communicating important (and even troubling) information through various modes (written essay, satirical art, film interview). The film was both poignant and at times humorous, and that contrast made its message all the stronger; I liked the edited dialogue at the beginning (and the Chuck Berry selection). The poster was spot-on and memorable. And I found the essay, “Why?” to be especially powerful and well written. (I assumed it to be a true account, and was very surprised to discover that it was fictionalized.) Really nice work synthesizing and communicating about an important issue.


  25. Sydney says:

    This was really informative, thank you!!


  26. Grace ryder says:

    wow!! so interesting


  27. Susan says:

    This is a really strong piece of work, and very impressive in the way the team has pulled together information from various sources and used different formats and media to present it in a coherent way compelling way–so that whether a person responds to artwork or video or fiction or journalistic reporting, he/she will get the background of this situation and the extent of it today. It helps us understand how our cultural and ethnic differences cause problems when we enter a system where one-size-fits-all. It just doesn’t. Bravo to all!


  28. tenzin nyodrup says:

    after reading this my opinion on school district has changes. Some system seemed to be made for STPP.


  29. Ravyn Gistarb says:

    Love the title, connects to the topic very well


  30. Darkius says:

    Your video was playful but still stayed true to the topic, overall nice.


  31. Jasmine says:

    Amber’s narrative was my favorite


  32. Evelyn says:

    I really enjoyed your poster, it send a very clear message.


  33. Taisia says:

    The cover photo is amazing and very understandable


  34. Amber says:

    It’s so cool to see all the hard work completed!


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