Red flags: Disciplinary practices and ‘school-to-prison’ pathways in South Africa
Testing positive for drug use at school turned into a horror story for four learners, who were channelled into the criminal justice system by their school and detained for months under ‘compulsory residence orders’ at child and youth care facilities. This occurred even though the referral of children to the criminal justice system following a school-administered drug test is explicitly prohibited by legislation. S v L M & Others draws startling attention to the failure of school officials, prosecutors and magistrates to comply with legislation, and the devastating impacts that a direct ‘school-to-prison’ pipeline can have on children. The case also raises red flags around broader punitive and exclusionary school disciplinary mechanisms, which – even where lawful – may also adversely affect children and potentially contribute to school-to-prison pathways in South Africa. We argue that S v L M highlights the need for restorative and preventative approaches to school discipline, which can transform not only learners and schools but society more broadly.
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