Online forum seeks to shut down Lehigh Valley school-to-jail pipeline

Too many young people are labeled as criminals before they even graduate from high school, according to the leader of a local nonprofit.

Lehigh Valley Justice Institute executive director Joe Welsh encourages education officials to be patient with troubled youth and follow advice before having them arrested for misbehaviour.

“At the time, we could have done things at school that would have been considered discipline issues. There has been a growing trend to criminalize these issues, which forces young people into the mass incarceration system at a young age,” Welsh said.

The forum will begin with a video of individuals caught up in the flow of the school-to-prison pipeline, but overcoming their issues and learning from them.

Welsh doesn’t want to take police out of schools, but wants to make sure police are trained in skills like conflict resolution and restorative practices. The Lehigh Valley Justice Initiative plans to provide this type of training.

You can register to participate in the forum at lvji.org. The forum will take place on zoom. To date, 80 people have registered. Welsh predicts attendance could exceed 200 people.

Speakers registered to participate include:

  • Liberty High School Principal Harrison Bailey
  • ACLU-PA Community Advocate Ghadah Makoshi
  • Easton Area School District Superintendent David Piperato
  • Holona Ochs, professor of political science at Lehigh University
  • Hasshan Batts, Managing Director of Promise Neighborhoods
  • The moderator will be the pastor of Greater Shiloh Church, Phillip Davis

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Rudy Miller can be reached at [email protected].