Broward County, Florida, school district has reached an agreement with law enforcement agencies and the NAACP to combat the school-to-prison pipeline in their public schools. Principals will have more power in responding to student misconduct in a plan that is one of the first of its kind for schools.
Broward, which is the country's seventh largest school district, had the highest number of school-related arrests in Florida in the 2011-2012 school year, and many were for misdemeanor offenses. The students who have been arrested are disproportionately African-American and Hispanic.
With the new policy, administrators are instructed to resolve issues with students instead of arresting them for non-violent misdemeanors such as trespassing, harassment, possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. Students may be referred to alternative forms of intervention such as a week-long counseling program that will address the students' individual needs.
Associated Press reports:
The policy went into effect at the beginning of the current school year, and Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said the district has already seen a 41 percent decline in the number of school-related arrests.
Runcie became superintendent two years ago, and said one of the first things he did was look at student achievement and outcomes. One of the data sets that stood out to him the most showed Black male students in particular falling behind academically. When he dove further into the data, he found the same group was misrepresented in terms of expulsions and arrests.
"One other thing I heard quite a bit about was students being arrested for things that I would never have believed constituted an arrest," Runcie said. "For example, tardiness. Trespassing. Throwing spit balls. Things that you just, using a common sense approach, would say, we wouldn't want to do this to a child because once you get a record, it basically stays with you for your life."
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