By arresting fewer students, we create safer schools that put more kids on path to college, jobs and not prison

Here is an op-ed on school safety by Judge Steven Teske of the Clayton County Juvenile Court and Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the national civil rights group Advancement Project.

By Judge Steven Teske and Judith Browne Dianis

In the wake of the horrific school shooting in Newtown, policymakers across the nation are grappling with how we keep our schools and communities safe. Georgia is no exception. Local school districts in Georgia and across the nation are developing plans to create their own police departments.

While the safety of our children is our highest priority, we must not allow isolated acts of violence to result in reactionary policies that, though well-intentioned, actually undermine school safety and the educational outcomes of our children.

Research shows police in schools operating absent a written protocol do not increase safety, and they do not catch early indicators of mental health needs, identify root causes of underlying violence, or use the resources of law enforcement in an effective way. Instead of addressing serious threats to safety, police in schools often respond to minor student misbehavior by criminalizing the young people they were intended to protect.

We saw this in Clayton County. After placing police officers on middle and high school campuses in the late 1990s, school-related arrests skyrocketed. However, the vast majority of cases that reached juvenile courtrooms were for misdemeanors involving school fights, disorderly conduct, and disruption. The court docket was consumed with low-risk cases involving kids who made adults mad versus kids who scare us.

Despite the many arrests, school safety did not improve. The number of serious weapons brought to campus increased during this period, including guns, knives, box cutters, and straight edge razors. At the same time, the graduation rate decreased, reaching an all-time low. As more students were arrested, suspended and expelled from our school system, the juvenile crime rate in the community significantly increased because probation officers were forced to focus on low risk students rather than real threats to safety.

The recidivism rate increased to over 70 percent as high risk kids were receiving less supervision. Our growing reliance on police to handle minor school disciplinary infractions was negatively impacting the entire community.

Fortunately, as policymakers consider school safety proposals, they don’t have to repeat Clayton County’s mistakes. Instead they can look to models from across the country that promote strategies that foster care, connectedness, and support in our schools.

Consider Denver for example: the police department and the school district partnered with the grassroots youth and parent group, Padres & Jovenes Unidos, in reaching a historic agreement which limits the role of police in schools. The agreement also provides due process protections for students and parents, helps ensure our children are on a path to college or career; requires community input on the policing process; mandates training on the role of police; and clarifies the rights afforded to students. These measures protect children and allow police to do what they do best: keep our communities safe.

We applaud this agreement because it unites youth and parents with the police department and the school district in developing a long-term plan to protect our children and truly transform our schools. The plan is similar to a memorandum of understanding developed in Clayton County.

Like Denver, we created a cooperative agreement between government agencies that prohibits referrals to law enforcement for minor acts of misconduct, and instead implements a graduated approach to assigning disciplinary consequences, including a warning after the first offense and a referral to a school conflict workshop on the second offense.

We also created a multidisciplinary panel to assess the needs of students at risk for referral to law enforcement, and to refer them to services outside of the school such as family therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and wrap-around services. This approach worked for Clayton County and we fully expect it’ll work for Denver.

The bottom line is simple: we need common sense approaches to school safety that give parents and teachers the support they need to create safe, high quality schools that place children on a path to college or careers, rather than prison. We also need more collaboration between parents, students, the police department and the school district.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

62 comments Add your comment

home-tutoring parent

February 25th, 2013
5:44 am

How about if we try sending horrific-home students to $25k public boarding schools, teaching classes 46-50 weeks per year, with vacation boarding for kids who shudder at returning home? Or private boarding school vouchers. Starting in first grade. At 9th grade, kids not cutting it have to return to their home-area regular high schools.

Upper-earning parents say, “You can’t do that, I worked hard for my kids to have that privilege. White middle-class parents ay, “You can’t do that, these black kids would receive a better education than my kids.”

But if we want to prove that poor kids, especially black kids, from drug-and-alcohol-riddled single-mom households, and crime-infested neighborhoods,can do well in school, go on to college and become successful well-paid employees, business owners, and teachers and college profs, who pay high taxes, which our government needs to be solvent, we need to do something different in education for disadvantaged-upbringing students. Waay different.

I’m not saying this experiment will work for all super-subsidized students, but I do believe it could be a game-changer.

Take only 3.6+ Tech and UGA grads to be teachers, higher GPAs for “teachers college” regional state university grads. Honors students only. Pay them $60k to start, retain the best of hires, and pay the retainees $100k by age 40.

What do we have to lose? Prison costs a more than $25k per inmate per year. Welfare costs substantial sums. Turn public-treasury drains into public-treasury contributions.

MiltonMan

February 25th, 2013
6:27 am

“Despite the many arrests, school safety did not improve. The number of serious weapons brought to campus increased during this period, including guns, knives, box cutters, and straight edge razors. At the same time, the graduation rate decreased, reaching an all-time low. As more students were arrested, suspended and expelled from our school system, the juvenile crime rate in the community significantly increased because probation officers were forced to focus on low risk students rather than real threats to safety.”

This is after all Clayton County. Using Clayton County as an “example” on how to do anything that a sane society would allow is revolting at best.

home-tutoring parent

February 25th, 2013
6:32 am

Also, make these schools offer manual-working-skills jobs. I was a National Merit Finalist and went to med school. I remember and loved metal and wood shop and drafting. I even loved doing yard-work for rich people and (even though it hurt my back) summers picking strawberries.

One of the best two-year college programs in the world is Deep Springs College. Students learn to milk cows, maintain and ride horses on the range,plow ground, grow crops. The kids are super-bright. Many go to Stanford and Yale. I never even heard about it from my high school counselor, and didn’t attend.

In my graying retired years, I’m thinking about going to Ashaldnd Oregon’s United Bicycle Institute, offering courses from basic bicycle repair, to brazing steel and titanium frames. I’m also looking at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding.

I studied under really smart university PhDs and MDs, and they liked teaching me..

I love working on bikes, and sailing. I’m just thinking, why not learn from handwork-lessons masters?

One of my sons, teaching AP physics C, spent a winter refurbishing an old sailboat in Brooklyn with a master shpwright. Then he bought a tiny boat, more than “used” and is refurbishing it, with his wife. She’s kind of a task driver. You know how girls are. She wants to steal her parents Benetau 45 for a circumnavigation, and she wants her husband, my son, to be able to fix things, so they can successfully sail around the world.

mountain man

February 25th, 2013
6:37 am

They now have a “study” that says murders go down if you arrest fewer murderers. Also, burglaries go down if you arrest fewer burglars.

mountain man

February 25th, 2013
6:41 am

“How about if we try sending horrific-home students to $25k public boarding schools, teaching classes 46-50 weeks per year, with vacation boarding for kids who shudder at returning home?”

Or better yet, take these kids away from their families, and force the mother to go on implantable birth control so they don’t pop out any more unwanted kids.

agent

February 25th, 2013
6:59 am

Arresting, suspending, or expelling a kid is not the same as punishing that kid. The reason for our morally and ethically backrupt country is the fact that morons refuse to punish people for their bad actions. As long as you continue to pat them on the back and tell them it’s not their fault, but society’s, this country will get much worse.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:03 am

horsecrap. pure and simple horsecrap.

this is just kicking the can down to the colleges and making it our problem.

I favor more arrests. realistic rules to be sure, but more arrests. start teaching these little thugs and overly pampered brats of privlige life has consequences.

Typical Obama Voter

February 25th, 2013
7:04 am

This is all the fault of Georgia Bush.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:07 am

the second idiots start spouting things like “multidisiplinary” or “best practices” I instantly tune them out. experience has taught me they actually have nothing of substance to say, but that will not stop them from saying it – at nauseating length.

LoganvilleGuy

February 25th, 2013
7:15 am

I would like to know how they define whether or not a school is “safer.” Since their argument relies on convincing us that the schools aren’t made “safer” when the police are arresting for what they consider minor offenses, it is important for them to tell us how they arrived at that conclusion. Unfortunately, they failed miserably.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:15 am

oh, and why do we have more arrests these days?

mostly due to hysterical parents -three name women concerned about “the children” and “fairness” mostly- who have fostered a society where everything is a crime and the state needs to involved

back in the dark ages when I was in HS, most of the things they call “crimes” were issued handled by the schools themselves. kids fighting = kids having to work in the lunchroom during lunch, or cleaning the toilets after school.

bring a knife to school? the football coach took it, kept it, and paddled your butt til you couldn’t sit -and the school made mommy or daddy come in to explain why jr was carrying in the first place.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:16 am

considering how badly Clayton had cratered, it would have been impossible for their graduation rates not to get better.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:20 am

“recidivism rate increased to over 70 percent ”

“The number of serious weapons brought to campus increased during this period, including guns, knives, box cutters, and straight edge razors”

hell, if I were in a school with a violent repeater rate of 70%, I’d be packing, too

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:25 am

recidivism rate increased to over 70 percent
limits the role of police in schools

in what universe do these two sentences in the same topic ever make sense?

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:27 am

seems these PC morons forget the most basic study of all.

if you expel chronic troublemakers -ie, they can’t come back here anymore – you’ll REALLY solve this issue.

Ron

February 25th, 2013
7:30 am

Dear Home-Tutoring Parent…stay off the sauce, stay on the meds.

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
7:35 am

Anyone ever think that the reason why more arrests are necessary in Clayton County (and the recidivism rate is 70%) is because all the GOOD parents are sending their kids elsewhere, either they moved to a different county, or they send their kids to private schools. What is left in the public school system are the dregs of society – gangs, dope parents, etc.

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
7:36 am

Don’t worry, it will be like that in Dekalb County in a few years.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:39 am

years-try weeks if the tend continues.

but don’t worry ’cause Gene works for God.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:42 am

its an easy fix. lets send Denver Gene the machine for awhile.

maybe he can heal them with his semi-divine touch

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
7:43 am

any chance we can get a link to their study or studies so we can dissect it ourselves?

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
7:44 am

” By arresting fewer students, we create safer schools that put more kids on path to college, jobs and not prison”

That is why people are flocking to Clayton County for the great education they get there. Property values have increased 200% in the last two years. Jobless rate is 0% in Clayton. It is the Garden of Eden in Georgia.

Ed Johnson

February 25th, 2013
7:49 am

“While the safety of our children is our highest priority, we must not allow isolated acts of violence to result in reactionary policies that, though well-intentioned, actually undermine school safety and the educational outcomes of our children.”

This will come across as absolutely nonsensical and counterintuitive to those not understanding how vicious cycles of systemic behavior get started and sustained. The dynamic Judge Teske and Ms. Dianis ask us to know is no different than the Beverly Hall dynamic that drove APS into the CRCT cheating crisis.

But again, what’s that adage about hindsight? Something like, I can see after the fact, but don’t ask me to see ahead.

Georgia , The "New Mississippi"

February 25th, 2013
7:59 am

You better go to Bibb County and do more research on this one. Students belong in school working on a diploma . Criminals belong in jail/prison working on a GED.

reality check

February 25th, 2013
8:05 am

Liberal B.S.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
8:06 am

stop insulting Mississippi like that.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
8:09 am

I got it! the Clayton C. diploma games. get the biggest thug from each school, put them on in a 3 square block radius of downtown Morrow, and tell them the survivor gets a full ride to UGA

John Konop

February 25th, 2013
8:10 am

Agent the ” war of drugs” attitude toward crime has made the problem worse by any measurement. The people that judge the most usually have the most to hide…….

Digger

February 25th, 2013
8:12 am

Wow. Feral thugs as doctors and lawyers. I think it will work.

John Konop

February 25th, 2013
8:13 am

Sorry …..war on drugs……

indigo

February 25th, 2013
8:44 am

So, if police enforce our laws, it results in reduced graduation rates and higher juvenile crime rates?

The dumbing down of America continues at full speed ahead.

V for Vendetta

February 25th, 2013
8:49 am

Gonna have to agree with the others on here. One thing that struck me was the quote highlighted above by Ed:

“While the safety of our children is our highest priority, we must not allow isolated acts of violence to result in reactionary policies that, though well-intentioned, actually undermine school safety and the educational outcomes of our children.”

Is the safety of children the parents highest priority? What about their educational outcomes? The answer to both is NO, in case you were wondering. The State cannot continue picking up the tab, both financially and socially, for parents who completely abdicate their responsibilities as parents. It’s a lose-lose situation, of course. On one hand, the State funnels billions of dollars into welfare programs. On the other, children suffer because they are trapped in the environment into which they were born.

I have no answer–no one does–but I can assure you that continuing to throw money at the problem WILL NOT WORK. You must first admit that there is a culture of laziness in this country. A culture of wanting something for nothing. A culture of “I’m too good for a manual labor job.”

Fix that and maybe we–and the children–have a chance. But you can’t fix it with money.

indigo

February 25th, 2013
8:49 am

Bootney – 7:15 “paddled your butt till you couldn’t sit down”

Unfortunately, those days are gone.

Now, social experiments, political correctness and trial lawyers dominate the school landscape.

Google "NEA" and "union"

February 25th, 2013
8:54 am

Liberals continually demand a more permissive society, and demonize those pointing out the harm caused by defining deviancy down.

But send their own kids to private schools to escape the mayhem their policies generate.

V for Vendetta

February 25th, 2013
9:00 am

Poor kid; a child shouldn’t have to grow up in such an environment.

http://www.ajc.com/news/news/cops-man-left-toddler-alone-while-he-sold-drugs/nWTqQ/

But does it mean we’re responsible for raising said child?

Dr. John Trotter

February 25th, 2013
9:10 am

I agree with Judge T. that these days, police officers are relied on to arrest students for minor infractions. When I was an administrator, we just dealt with the infractions forthright and with all due alacrity. But, it seems these days that the administrators are afraid to take on these defiant and disruptive students and their often irate and irresponsible parents. So, they abdicate all of their administrative responsibilities to the police. It is unfortunate that for minor incidents, these students get police records.

But, for the more serious stuff, you have to call in the police — and do so quickly. In fact, I wanted the police to handcuff the student and walk him or her down the hall on the way out of the building so that the rest of the students could see what happens to a thug out of control and intent on creating total havoc within the learning institution. It does wonders. I learned this move from my father.

Of course, for the minor stuff, we used the “board of education” (viz., the paddle) and for more serious offenses, suspensions and expulsions. It’s really not that difficult to establish strong student discipline in the schools, but you have to have backbone, guts, consistency, and fairness. Although I did have one or two thugs to threaten me with physical harm, the overwhelming number of the students appreciated the fact that my disciplinary measures created order, not chaos. Most students prefer order.

You have to get rid of the thugs. You cannot let them reign with terror in the regular school environment. But, arresting students for minor offense is not the answer. It is a cop out for the gutless administrators.

bootney farnsworth

February 25th, 2013
9:11 am

@indigo,

sorta my point. instead of common sense solutions, we made everything from farting to thinking a crime

William Casey

February 25th, 2013
9:19 am

Americans pay a high price for freedom. The freedom for which we pay most highly is the unlimited freedom to procreate. As long as the irresponsible, ignorant, stupid and criminal are allowed to procreate at will, the resulting, predictable problems will be laid at society’s door. This is why schools have largely become instruments of suppression rather then enlightenment.

A Conservative Voice

February 25th, 2013
9:23 am

Folks, this whole thing is a conspiracy. Now,let me ask you, what with the entitlement posture that bhusseino has taken for the past four years, what better way to keep voters dependent upon the government than to “keep them ignorant”. This way, they can’t get a job and if they commit a crime and get caught, they go to prison where we spend thousands and thousands of dollars per year to house, feed, clothe and for their medical care and when they’re released back into society, what’s gonna happen? they’ll go on the public dole. Now, who are these entitled people gonna vote for? Answer – the person who promises and gives them everything they need in life AND THEY DON’T HAVE TO DO ANYTHING TO GET IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It’s a no brainer……our Federal Government under bhusseino is behind all this and it’s all done so the democrats/liberals can retain power forever. We’re wrong to look at this as a local problem when it goes much higher.

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
9:53 am

” It’s really not that difficult to establish strong student discipline in the schools, but you have to have backbone, guts, consistency, and fairness.”

I agree. The trouble is that finding administrators with backbone, guts, consistency and fairness AND will stand up to irate parents is pretty darned difficult.

V for Vendetta

February 25th, 2013
9:56 am

WC,

Well said!

MM,

Very true. They’re like unicorns.

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
10:01 am

V for Vendetta – yeah, but unlike unicorns, they DID exist at one time in the past. Have they all gone extinct? Has the feel-good, no-spank, hug-everyone educrats driven them the way of the dodo?

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
10:04 am

“we made everything from farting to thinking a crime”

I don’t think any students have been arrested for either of the above two offenses. But in the article, what is defined as “minor” offenses? Bringing a gun to school? A knife? Threatening to shoot someone after school? Bringing (or using) drugs at school? Having sex on campus? Threatening the teacher? I think if you looked into it, you would find that most of the offenses were pretty major. If you ignore them or treat them lightly, things only get worse.

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
10:08 am

It is sort of like people who want to de-criminalize drugs. A great idea? Looks good on the surface – take the profit factor out of Mexican Cartels, quit overloading prisons. But what about people who will misuse the drugs and operate a vehicle and kill someone? We can’t control our one inebriating legal drug (alcohol) now. I understand that prices will dop when legalized, but if they don’t have the money to buy, drug addicts will steal from you and me to get the money. In that way, drugs are much more powerful than alcohol.

Clayton

February 25th, 2013
10:10 am

Yes, the arrests kept going up because every juvenile Clayton felon in the school system was quick replaced by two more fatherless “youth” coming from the city of Atlanta. Demographics is key considering the population shift going on in Clayton over the last 20 years.

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
10:11 am

Speaking of controlling alcohol and driving – have they arrested the hit and run driver from Athens yet? The one who refused to cooperate (along wioth his parents) so that the police could not test him for alcohol and/or drugs. That driver should have the book thrown at him, and his parents deserve to be horse-whipped in the public square.

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
10:26 am

Was this the same judge that made the ruling on Dekalb county?

Mountain Man

February 25th, 2013
10:34 am

“including a warning after the first offense and a referral to a school conflict workshop on the second offense”

OOOH! I’M SCARED!

reality check

February 25th, 2013
10:48 am

The real problem is that common sense is no longer permitted in schools. That means a little girl with a tweetie bird chain is deemed to have a weapon, but students with real disciplinary issues can’t be punished. Zero tolerance means zero common sense.

Inman Safety

February 25th, 2013
10:49 am

“the vast majority of cases that reached juvenile courtrooms were for misdemeanors involving school fights, disorderly conduct, and disruption. The court docket was consumed with low-risk cases involving kids who made adults mad versus kids who scare us. Our growing reliance on police to handle minor school disciplinary infractions was negatively impacting the entire community. we created a cooperative agreement between government agencies that prohibits referrals to law enforcement for minor acts of misconduct, and instead implements a graduated approach to assigning disciplinary consequences, including a warning after the first offense and a referral to a school conflict workshop on the second offense.”

In the abstract, you don’t want “minor” infractions going to the cops and courts, if they could be safely and effectively handled in the schools. But the devil’s in the details. As Mountain Man says, what’s the definition of a “minor” offense?

What about the story of the a child beaten so badly at Inman Middle School this year that he had to undergo a 3-hour surgery? See the comments at http://vahi.patch.com/articles/report-officer-uses-taser-gun-on-two-7th-grade-girls-fighting-outside-inman-ms#comments .

When all the families who have the wherewithal flee the school (to private school, to charters, to private school with vouchers), will those who are left behind really be better off because we didn’t want to arrest kids for “minor” violent offenses? When those who are too poor to leave, but who don’t commit such “minor” offenses are forced either to be repeat victims while the responsible adults give “warnings” and create “school conflict workshops”, or to join in the melee for self-protection, will society really be better off?

More access to counselors and other forms of help, especially at early ages when it’s not yet too late, sounds like a good thing.

But blowing off crimes that do in fact “scare” us (and that scare the children who are supposed to be not just barely surviving, but learning, after all), like repeat fights, attacks on other students and teachers, weapons in school, is the wrong way to go. Middle class families will refuse to be part of your social experiment. Reasonably well-behaved, non-dangerous poorer children shouldn’t have to be.