Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse

A riveting report on the overblown fear of violence that turns American schools into prisons and students into suspects.
In the dozen years since the shootings at Columbine High School, hysteria has distorted the media’s coverage of school violence and American schools’ responses to it. School violence has actually been falling steadily throughout the last decade, and yet schools across the country have never been more preoccupied with security.

This climate of fear has created ripe conditions for the imposition of unprecedented restrictions on young people’s rights, dignity, and educational freedoms. In what many call the school-to-prison pipeline, the policing and practices of the juvenile justice system increasingly infiltrate the schoolhouse. These “Zero tolerance” measures push the most vulnerable and academically needy students out of the classroom and into harm’s way.

Investigative reporter Annette Fuentes visits schools across America and finds metal detectors and drug tests for aspirin, police profiling of students with no records, arbitrary expulsions, teachers carrying guns, increased policing, and all-seeing electronic surveillance. She also reveals the many industries and “experts” who have vested interests in perpetuating the Lockdown High model. Her moving stories will astonish and anger readers, as she makes the case that the public schools of the twenty-first century reflect a society with an unhealthy fixation on crime, security and violence.


  • “[The] penetration of prison culture into daily life and particularly schools has been brilliantly traced by US writer Annette Fuentes in Lockdown High
  • “[A] well-argued book ... packed with the anecdotally eye-catching and hard, persuasive data. Fuentes's detailed and daunting investigation ... is a wakeup call.”
  • “Examples of zero-tolerance policies taken to absurd levels are attention-grabbing, but the real story, spelled out [in Lockdown High] with clarity and a touch of anger, is a disturbing one that should concern members of school boards, principals, teachers and parents.”
  • “[A] chilling report ... extremely well-written.”
  • Lockdown High is a wake up call for Americans who care about how schools treat children and young people ... This book is a must read for school boards, school administrators and parents.”
  • “Fuentes’ style is smart and accessible, her material both revelatory and relevant—it’s not only parents who will stay up late reading Lockdown High, but anyone interested in where we are headed.”
  • Lockdown High is a widely accessible overview of the trends in school discipline, surveillance, and policing. As such, Fuentes brings research in the education world to a broad audience and thereby widens the awareness of and potential resistance to the lockdown model.”


  • Ending the "school-to-prison pipeline" in LA: an interview with Lockdown High author Annette Fuentes

    Over the last four decades, suspensions and expulsions in public secondary schools across the US have increased by 40%. Public schools have been flooded with technologies designed for prisons, such as surveillance systems and metal detectors, together with a heavy police presence. Of the approximately 9000 arrests and tickets in the LA school district in the 2011-2012 school year, 93% involved black and Latino students

    This August, the Los Angeles Unified School District took significant steps to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, affording educators and police officers greater latitude in responding to minor-offenses, such as possession of marijuana or alcohol on school grounds. 

    In an interview, Annette Fuentes, author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse shared her take on zero tolerance and recent reforms.

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  • Annette Fuentes asks if truancy laws are really helping

    This week Annette Fuentes, author of Lockdown High, continues her work in education justice over at Atlantic.com. Writing now to address truancy laws across the U.S., the author offers a thorough investigation of the discrepancy between states' intentions and outcomes when it comes to keeping kids in school. Who, she asks rightly, are truancy laws really helping?

    Supporters say the truancy crackdown is critical to improving test scores and high school graduation rates, but there's a fiscal motivation, too. With school budgets cut to the bone, every dollar counts, and each absent child represents lost state funding. Some districts get a share of fines levied by the courts, providing an additional incentive for issuing tickets. While a recent study from the non-profit Get Schooled found that truancy cuts across all demographics, those most affected by harsh enforcement are low-income families whose financial struggles can contribute to attendance problems, and students like Marcus Derrick with health problems or learning disabilities, who may require costly educational interventions that school districts want to avoid by punting the problem off to the courts.

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  • Annette Fuentes in the Huffington Post on the random drug testing of students in US high schools

    Last week on  The Huffington Post, Annette Fuentes, author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, weighed in on the recent case of a Santa Fe high school that has just introduced—to the surprise of both parents and several administrators alike—a controversial new drug testing program aimed not at teachers or staff, but at its students. The practice of random drug testing in schools is not only vehemently opposed by parents and civil liberties groups, but also, for example, by the American Academy of Pedicatrics whose extensive research on the issue clearly demonstrates the lack of evidence of any effective school-based drug testing.  More alarming, perhaps, are the additional concerns that Fuentes's article draws attention to, which most notably address the new testing practices which proceed by sampling hair particles instead of through traditional urinalysis. Fuentes writes:

    Paul Armentano of NORML, the marijuana law reform organization, told me the research indicates that hair testing for drugs may be more sensitive on the hair of people with darker pigmentation. "There have been allegations of an inherent bias in the test," he said.

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Other books by Annette Fuentes

  • 9781844674077_lockdown_high-max_141

    Lockdown High

    School violence has fallen steadily for twenty years. Yet in schools throughout the United States, Annette Fuentes finds metal detectors and drug...

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