Lawmakers and parents understandably do not want disruptive or dangerous students in school. But we cannot simultaneously demand "zero tolerance" and fail to build a network of quality alternative placements. We likewise cannot expect students who have made serious mistakes to bootstrap themselves.
At Rikers I sat with eight inmates in District 79's adult education program as they discussed how to manage the transition to life outside of jail. Reflecting on the diminished options he faced one young man remarked "well, that's why we should've gone to school." Sure, except life is not that simple. So state and national policymakers must do more to bring quality education to where students are—even if that is in places with bars and razor wire.