Broward County School District in Florida leads the state in the number of students arrested on campus. The criticism is that principals have relied too heavily on school-assigned police officers to deal with discipline problems often causing unnecessary arrests. Now the district wants to try a new approach to remedy discipline problems, such as petty theft, substance abuse, or in-school gambling, and reduce arrests.
“Broward had 1,062 school-related arrests during the 2011-12 school year, according to a report by Florida’s Department of Juvenile Justice. Miami-Dade County schools, which have significantly more students, had 552 arrests. Miami-Dade has in recent years employed a variety of strategies to reduce student arrests: psychologists and social workers are involved in the discipline process, school police officers were retrained to be more cautious in making arrests, and a Civil Citation Program gives students a chance to nullify a misdemeanor arrest if they complete a diversion program.
“In Broward, (a dropout-prevention specialist Nordia) Sappleton’s planning team includes several committees made up of district staff, community members, law enforcement personnel, and representatives from the Broward legal community. By as early as the start of the next school year, the group hopes to have a new system in place that would deploy counselors and mentors to trouble-making students instead of pushing them out of school through suspensions or expulsions. The students would still be punished — they would likely have to temporarily switch to an alternative school, for example, and they might have to perform restitution if their actions negatively impacted teachers or their classmates. …
“(Broward Circuit Judge Elijah) Williams said a single arrest, even as a juvenile, can haunt a person for life — keeping them out of college or the military, and in some cases disqualifying them from jobs or housing. In the case of nonviolent misdemeanor offenses, Williams urged board members to follow the lead of school districts around the country that are increasingly working to keep students out of the criminal justice system. “
Apparently Georgia has already tried this approach. According to the story, “In Clayton County, Ga., Williams said that new approach led to an 87 percent reduction in student fights, and a 20 percent increase in graduation rates. “
School Board member Robin Bartleman, who has pushed the issue for several years, said “This is all about common sense discipline” and I completely agree. I hope this goes into effect in Broward and other communities pick it up as well.
What are your thoughts? Are you familiar with the Clayton County results? What can you share about it?