Broward County schools trying to revamp discipline with less arrests

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.

From The Miami Herald:

“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?

13 comments Add your comment


April 17th, 2013
4:30 am

I didn’t think juvenile arrests and offenses were public record. Amazing that they would disqualify a student from so many things later in life as the article suggests. Colleges have access to juvenile records but not future non government employers?

Copy editor

April 17th, 2013
5:10 am

I believe the headline of this post should read “Broward County schools trying to revamp discipline with FEWER arrests.” You use “fewer” when talking about something you can count, like arrests.

Teachers' Union

April 17th, 2013
7:05 am

Ritalin should be put into the school lunches !

Real Life

April 17th, 2013
7:53 am

Petty theft is not a discipline problem–it is a crime. Fighting often involves injuries–both minor and major–making the fighting a crime. Substance abuse should be handled by qualified personnel. Unless it involves distribution then no arrest. Each situation is different. The blanket description does not really tell us about the majority of arrests were for. Fewer arrests would be good–but not all crime, even so-called petty crimes, is a discipline issue. And as to Clayton and its statistics, again these are numbers with no explanations involved at all. And as we all know, lying with statistics is a time-honored political activity.

Carole Smith

April 17th, 2013
8:03 am

I graduated (wayyyyyyyyy back in the day) from Miami-Dade schools. None of this nonsense was put up with then. Several nieces and nephews graduated from and/or still going to schools in Broward County. This starts at HOME with the PARENTS. Kids are left to run wild and as long as they’re out of the parents hair no one cares. Too bad if disciplanary actions affect college, jobs, housing, military, etc. The students are there for a mainly (free) education and to LEARN. This is being paid for by the taxpayers.


April 17th, 2013
9:31 am

This is another version of “If you don’t like the results, change the measurement”. What they need are new students, Education is a waste of time for most of those violent sub-human animals.

Atlanta Mom

April 17th, 2013
9:35 am

“Williams said that new approach led to an 87 percent reduction in student fights”
Would that be an 87% reduction in fights, or an 87% reduction in reported fights?

Clayton County resident

April 17th, 2013
10:21 am

“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. “

Such statistics must be taken with a grain of salt. Manipulating numbers and outright fudging the truth are standard procedure in Clayton County. Most of the kids “graduating” would not have made it in Cobb, Gwinnett or North Fulton counties where there are higher standards.


April 17th, 2013
10:21 am

Seems to me that there is a difference between a discipline problem (late to class, failed to do work, talking back) and things that would benefit if there were a charge (fighting, bullying, affray-including cursing, threats, disruption of classes. So many schools fail to handle the discipline (see above) so it continues to escalate till you have the criminal acts. I have NO sympathy for students who commit crimes at school, and support increasing the use of the criminal system for that! Does it mean we are “committing these children to a life of crime?” No, they are choosing that for themselves. It is past time to protect the other students and their teachers!


April 17th, 2013
10:44 am

I also am growing tired of the arguments some of these “anti-arrest” people are using. I think it is great that they want to reduce the number of children being referred to criminal court. I also agree that more of these incidents could be handled through school disciplinary processes.

However, to state that fights, theft, etc. are not criminal acts is an outright and blatant lie. Whether they are handled by arrest or via school discipline, they are still criminal acts. To say otherwise is being dishonest.

Make your argument by telling the truth. Your argument is that you would like to see minor criminal violations handled through school discipline rather than through arrest. I’m good with that – I just want you to be honest.


April 17th, 2013
11:17 am

Thanks, Copy Editor. That was the first thing I thought, also. Use “fewer” with plural words, “less” with singular words.


April 17th, 2013
3:37 pm

In Miami- Dade County, on site School Resource Officers usually convince victims not to file charges. No charges, no arrest.

Warrior Woman

April 18th, 2013
1:53 pm

Fewer arrests are only a good thing if the reduction in arrests is a result of a reduction in behaviors warranting arrests.