School Discipline Has Become a Criminal Matter, Says ACLU


You just bought yourself some time in solitary!

Once upon a time, misbehaving in school meant detention, or a conference wth your parents, or — in extreme cases — a temporary or permanent boot through the schoolhouse door. But with police officers increasingly stationed full-time on campuses across the country, violations of school rules now often result in handcuffs and criminal charges. School officials are increasingly handing even routine disciplinary matters to law-enforcement officers and the criminal justice system, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

School rules themselves have become bizarrely strict over the years, and even the in-school penalties for transgressions have escalated. While those of us of school age in the 1970s commonly carried pocket knives without raising an eyebrow (my friends and I actually bought ours as souvenirs on a school field trip to Bushkill Falls, in Pennsylvania), to do the same these days is often automatic grounds for expulson. Arrested Futures: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts' Three Largest School Districts by Robin L. Dahlberg, acknowledges this point, but says the problem continues to get worse:

While other research has focused on zero-tolerance policies and the overuse of out-of-school suspension and expulsion as significant factors in feeding the "School-to-Prison Pipeline," this report focuses on the additional problem of arrest, in particular the use of arrest to address behavior that would likely be handled in the school by school staff if not for the presence of on-site officers.

How common are police officers in the classroom? Frighteningly so, if you're the kind of person who thinks it should not take armed personnel to keep the lid on a place devoted to educating children.

Sixty years ago, in the mid-1950s, only Flint, Michigan employed police officers to patrol the hallways, lunchrooms and classrooms of its public schools. By 2005, however, 48% of public schools responding to a United States Department of Justice survey reported having on-site police officers. Today, there are an estimated 17,000 school-based officers.

Guns and badges are becoming a normal event in public school hallways, even though "school crime has declined significantly during the last 15 years," and "the total rate of self-reported school-based offenses per 1,000 students, including violent crime and theft, fell 69% between 1993 and 2008."

Which is to say, there's no real reason to replace a stern vice principal with cops. But, that replacement proceeds, and it has consequences.

Research has shown that the presence of on-site police officers frequently results in both more student arrests and more arrests for misbehavior previously handled informally by educators and parents. Districts that employ or deploy more police officers per student have higher rates of arrest than do districts with fewer officers per student. Those arrests frequently are based on behavior that, if not for the police presence, would not normally result in an arrest.

The specifics of police presences in the three districts studied — Boston, Springfield and Worcester — vary to a certain degree, but in all cases, law-enforcement responses are displacing traditional school discipline. The more overt the police presence, the more arrests. Armed, uniformed officers have a permanent presence in Springfield schools, with the result:

In 2007-08, Springfield had an arrest rate that was more than twice as high as Boston and seven times as high as Worcester. For every 1,000 students enrolled, there were 14 arrests in Springfield, six in Boston and two in Worcester. In 2009-10, Springfield's arrest rate was three times that of Boston's and five times that of Worcester's. For every 1,000 students enrolled, there were nine arrests in Springfield, three in Boston and two in Worcester.

And why were these kids cuffed and hauled away?

According to those reports, although a few public order offense arrests involved students who were so distraught that they were endangering the physical safety of those around them, most of the arrests occurred after students refused to follow the directive of a teacher, administrator or police officer in a verbally confrontational manner.

Between one-quarter and one-third of the events that led to arrests for person offenses in Springfield began as public order offenses but escalated after an officer or teacher attempted to take control of the student. Several involved aggressive efforts by police officers to handcuff students who did not want to be handcuffed, often in a public hallway or stairway in full view of the students' peers.

So, we're not, by and large, talking about threats to persons or property; students are being arrested for incidents involving bad attitude, defiance and cursing. And, while most of those arrested are teenagers, some are as young as 11.

So … How is discipline handled where your kids are enrolled?

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  1. “Mess with the bull, you get the Taser.”

    1. Sometimes, “you get the Taser” because that is part of the sport that cops and teachers enjoy. Americans won’t fight against tyrany. They will get motivated for Travon who got shot for pounding a white man’s head into the concrete. His brain damage wouldn’t be a tradgedy because blck-on-white crime happens so often. The U.S.A. is not a good place. Americans are not good people.

      1. Cool story, bro.

        1. Dude, you responded to him. Now the ATF will have you on a list of domestic terrorists.

          1. I figured I was already on one anyway.

      2. The irony is that we have cops in school with Tasers and guns, but a teacher administering a swat is an OMG offense.

        Corporal punishment is barbaric, but deadly force is not a problem.

        1. Thread winner

  2. my friends and I actually bought ours as souvenirs on a school field trip to Bushkill Falls, in Pennsylvania

    That would never happen today. “That” being a school trip to a place named “Bushkill”.

    1. I know, right? Think of how sexually and violently suggestive that would be.

      1. That or it might be considered a death threat against a president.

    2. Bushkill is on the Teachers Union contract list of approved field trips provided adequate funding is available after all pension and benefit obligations have been honored. Obamakill is not on the list.

  3. Which is to say, there’s no real reason to replace a stern vice principal with cops. But, that replacement proceeds, and it has consequences.

    Nonsense. I live in Springfield, the high school my daughter goes to has eight vice principals, two for each grade. The middle school my son goes to has four. Both schools also have police presences. Nobody has been replaced.

    1. My mistake! Why trim payroll when you can simply pad it?

      1. And you should hear the constant whining that both schools emit about how they don’t have enough money for anything.

        1. Then they blackmail everyone by threatening to cut busing and other school activities instead of trimming the admin fat.

          1. No threatening here, they just did it. One summer they changed busing so that kids would go to the school closest to where they live and the cut the number of stops. Now, on average, buses make 5 stops and pick up 10 kids at each stop.

            1. They initiated a logical streamlining of bus operations? Bus driver make work is obviously lower on the list of priorities.

    2. Which Springfield? There are dozens in the US.

      1. Uh, I suppose you could RTFA.

        1. You’re kidding, right?

      2. Mass…just RTFA.

        On a side note, Sparky has exposed himself as a Masshole.

        Ever eat at The Student Prince, Sparky?

        1. I’ve been there a couple times. I like going in the fall because of the specials they have. They probably have the best squash I’ve had at any restaurant anywhere.

          1. I’ve had bear there, and it was good. And they have some pretty excellent beers on tap.

            1. I’ve never tried bear but I agree about the beers. They have some nice dark ones that will fill you up as much as any meal.

              The bratwurst is excellent as is the sausage with apple sauce entree.

        2. Sounds tasty. I may have to stop there when I’m in the area.

    3. I hope you’re joking. He doesn’t mean LITERALLY replaced. He means their role in discipline is being replaced. But now that I read more closely, I think I’m being trolled. Eight vice-principals?

      1. It’s a bit late but to answer your question: I shit you not, each grade is assigned two vice principals that stay with the class right up through graduation. And whether he means LITERALLY or not, both the vice principals and the police are in charge of maintaining discipline within their assigned groups.

  4. Problem is the teachers don’t want to do anything because they either don’t want to get sued or they don’t want to get their ass kicked by the parent after school. There was no disipline for so long and now of course they’re taking it too far to the extreme the other way.

    1. Is parent on teacher violence really a problem? I would imagine that we’d here a lot more about that from the teachers’ unions if it really was. Alternately, we’d be hearing a lot less about overbearing educrats if PoT violence existed and was effective.

      1. “hear”*

        (*)blames government schools.

      2. There’s not a lot of parent/teacher violence, mainly because of what JB said. The teachers are afraid so they don’t do anything but page the police.

      3. Yeah, when my mom was a teacher years ago in a very tough neighborhood, parents would show up at the school to threaten teachers for disipling their kids. It wasn’t an everyday thing because there were only a handful of children who managed to disrupt the learning for everyone else. Basically, what ended up happening was very little was done so even the really dedicated teachers like my mom had trouble teaching the 29 kids in her class who were there to learn because of the one little a**hole no one could do anything about. No back up by the principle in her case, it was basically just deal with it.

        1. Oh, ok. I didn’t see this until after I posted my 4:30 comment.

      4. OK, was there ever widespread PoT violence? This is one thing I’ve never heard the teachers in my life complain about. And they do complain. A lot.

    2. You have it absolutely right JB. We used to have a deal in schools. Teachers and administrators had pretty much arbitrary discretion and there wasn’t a damn thing you could do about it. Well, we took that discretion away from them in form of zero tolerance policies and endless litigation against schools and teachers over disciplinary matters. Now that we have taken away their discretion, the punishments have gone threw the roof.

    3. I don’t know what period you’re remembering, but they certainly had plenty of discipline when I was in school.

      1. They did when I was in school as well, but that was a long time ago.

        1. I only graduated in 2006, and my school had plenty of discipline. But my family lucked out school-wise.

          1. Yeah, there’s no doubt vast differences bewteen neighborhoods and districts across the country.

  5. So … How is discipline handled where your kids are enrolled?

    Go back to your notes on Springfield.

    I might also add, this is what happens when apathetic parents send their up-and-coming thugs to a place with other kids that would actually like an education.

  6. My friend had his pocket knife confiscated on a field trip in 6th grade. It was just taken away, without the involvement of the police.

    At the time, I thought it was a bit harsh.

    1. In PA, in the early 80s, we would go hunting before and after school. Guns in the car, Zod forbid, in the school parking lot.

      * (mortified, gasps, passes out)

      1. My high school actually had a rifle range at the school, in the old civil defense shelter under the building. Seeing the kids in the NRA club bringing their rifles in and out of the building was a normal occurence.

  7. Boston, Springfield and Worcester?

    Nobody in their right minds sends their kids to public schools in any of those districts.

    1. Thanks, but it’s not by choice. I wish I could afford otherwise.

      1. You’re libertarian, aren’t you? Sell half your children into labor, and use the proceeds to fund the education of the other half. Money doesn’t grow on trees, and chimneys don’t clean themselves.

        1. You’re libertarian, aren’t you?

          I wouldn’t call myself one. My father is and I side with him on a lot of things but there are other things that he thinks I’m a bit too extreme on. I’m somewhere in the an-cap/minarchist range.

  8. So … How is discipline handled where your kids are enrolled?

    “Mrs. Hell’s Librarian, this is XXX Elementary. We have Hell’s Daughter sitting here in the office, and Principal Martinet would like to schedule a conference with you to discuss some things she mentioned in class. Some of the other children were upset.”

    1. That was the call my mom got all the time, except replace “things mentioned” with “things thrown”. I had issues.

    2. “We can not tolerate your children disrupting the interests of the collective good with contrarian objections. Please comply with these officials who are here to assist you.”

  9. most of the arrests occurred after students refused to follow the directive of a teacher, administrator or police officer in a verbally confrontational manner.

    So they were arrested for ‘contempt of authority.’

  10. While those of us of school age in the 1970s commonly carried pocket knives without raising an eyebrow…

    Mumblety peg was a very common way to pass the time at recess when the weather was too crappy to play football.

    So … How is discipline handled where your kids are enrolled?

    I tell them to quieten down and pay attention, then we go on with the lesson.

  11. I tell them to quieten down

    Please tell me you outsource the English lessons.

    1. I figured “go on with the lesson” would add the appropriate British air, but I guess not.

    2. Seems like a perfectly cromulent word to me.

  12. I don’t have any kids in school to ask, but why haven’t cops in the schools and draconian punishment worked to keep the little buggers from acting up? Last thing we wanted in the 60s was to have the cops calling our parents about some vandalism or fight behind the burger shop. And the punishments weren’t that severe – cops usually gave you a good talking to, the Sgt. probably knew your pastor or your Dad, and – at worse – you’d get some juvey at what passed for a private school.
    Now kids (and adults) will throw punches at a LEO without even thinking about the consequences. Seriously, what gives???

    1. When the parents don’t care then neither do the kids. Seriously, many parents put their kids in school because it’s free day care. They couldn’t give a shit if the kid gets arrested and thrown in jail, it’s just more free time for them.

    2. The other thing is, the anguish of submission exceeded a point of being less dreadful than the consequences of resistance, so far for many individuals with poor prospects.

  13. most of the arrests occurred after students refused to follow the directive of a teacher, administrator or police officer in a verbally confrontational manner.

    “You’re a fiesty little one, but you’ll soon learn some respect.”

    1. Do not question my authoritah!

  14. Saw the school police escorting students on a field trip recently. That’s right, the student-inmates need to be guarded at all times.

    1. “You gonna get used to wearin’ them chains after a while, Luke. Don’t you never stop listenin’ to them clinking. ‘Cause they gonna remind you of what I been saying. For your own good.”

  15. I live in central PA. Stupid zero tolerance policies about, including “weapons,” which includes pocketknives of all sorts.

    Two stories:

    1. A high school senior I know in an adjoining school district was being harassed by other students. At one point, he gave a rather intemperate response to one of the harassers (“bullies” in our current usage), which led to him dealing with the school’s administration. Upon searching him, they found a pocketknife. BAM. He was immediately suspended for two weeks, even though he has apparently carried and used the knife for a period of years, particularly in his vocational ed class. The final settlement was that he would complete his senior year (about 6 weeks) at the district’s “alternative school,” to be followed by graduation. He is prohibited from returning to his former high school’s grounds, prohibited from attending prom, and dropped from his vocational ed class (and with no certificate of completion, after having done 3 years thus far). That last one hurts, as the certificate carries weight with employers around here. All for a pocketknife.

    1. 2. A teacher at the local high school witness a young man, driving on a public road in a pickup truck in front of the high school, brandishing a pistol and pointing it at another person on the sidewalk. The teacher called the police, which in view of brandishing and pointing on a public street hardly seems unreasonable. The cops tracked down the man, who turned out to be a student at the high school and the son of a teacher at the high school.

      It turns out that the pistol was an HK air pistol, and was pointed in jest. Cops confiscated that and, it is reported, destroyed it. Kid was given deferred adjudication, which in this area (i.e., not the Bronx or something) seems a reasonable response to a stupid, but not malicious, act. THEN the school got involved. They determined he had the air pistol on school grounds (although how this was proven conclusively is unknown), and suspended him. His parents (remember, mom is a teacher at the school) hired a lawyer to pursue the case. The school board summoned the teacher who made the initial police call (thus exposing her identity to the kid, his parents, and the community; one school board member is rather upset that the teacher ever made the call in the first place, this being Pennsylvania after all). Hard negotiations ensued.

      The end result: kid can’t return to school *THIS YEAR* (but can next year), but will receive district-paid at-home tutoring during his absence from school, and no significant notation made of the incident.

    2. In short: he’s better off education-wise AFTER having done this.

      What a disaster.

  16. Just so we’re clear, the people who advocate home or private schooling are the unbalanced cranks, not the people placing cops in the hallways of public schools and having students arrested for trivial offenses.

    1. Well of course, Brendan. The arrests are just part of the rich tapestry of community experience we must all share in together.

  17. Went to an all male private school. They hired the biggest bad ass they could find as “Dean of Men” if you messed around he messed you up. It is how I would want my kids treated in school.

    1. Did he resemble the guy who played Darth Vader, but in his Clockwork Orange role?

  18. lulz

    Reminds me of the time we went deer hunting my soph year in college. Came back in time for breakfast, went straight there, sat down with my LL Bean vest bristling with 12 gauge shells in the little pockets….oops!


  19. Haven’t read the article – does the ACLU take any responsibility for making school disciple so due-process-y and trial-like, subject to getting sued, that authorities figure heck, may as well call the police and let experienced courts handle this.

  20. “While those of us of school age in the 1970s commonly carried pocket knives without raising an eyebrow…”

    That’s nothing … when I was kid, I used to bring my shotgun to high school during dove season and it was no big deal.

  21. It was Giuliani who said, “Schools exist in America and have always existed to train responsible citizens of the United States of America.”

    Since the schools must now train young people how to be responsible citizens in a police state, it’s only natural that the police have a large presence in the schools.

  22. Fuck the police.
    Get something better to do than babysit.

  23. Giuliani is historically accurate. Public schools have always existed as a means of government control over the citizens. They were always part of the “progressive” agenda, sold as a way to turn those nasty foreigners (i.e. Italians, Irish and Poles) into obedient workers. Have a look at Pierce v. Society of Sisters (268 U.S. 510) which has the notable quote “The fundamental theory of liberty upon which all governments of this Union rest excludes any general power of the State to standardize its children by forcing them to accept instruction from public teachers only. THE CHILD IS NOT THE MERE CREATURE OF THE STATE; those who nurture him and direct his destiny have the right, coupled with the high duty, to recognize and prepare him for additional obligations.”(emp. added) Note, also,that the children of the Old Aristocracy never attended public schools.

    We will never be a free society until two things are abolished — publicly funded education and the IRS. One is the means of indoctrination, the other the method of paying for it.

    1. ^^^^^^^^^^^^

  24. Part of my Cub Scout uniform in second grade was a four-blade pocket knife that hung from the belt.

    We also had the deer rifles in the back seat in high school.

    … Hobbit

    1. And there were those who rifled their dears in the back seat.

    2. Same here. And that was in an American school on a U.S. Army base in Germany.

      The only time teachers said anything was when they needed something cut.

  25. Sometimes you jsut have to throw your hands up in the air and shout, Whos your Daddy!

  26. I graduated from high school in 1975. My school had a gun club, and member students would bring their arms to school in the gun racks of their pickup trucks. We never had a campus incident, much less an injury or a fatality. I haven’t checked, but I doubt that even this still-rural high school allows the shooter’s club anymore.

    1. To Cato the Elder: I saw your comment above after posting mine (which was also in response to “While those of us of school age in the 1970s commonly carried pocket knives without raising an eyebrow…”). It was my belief that the ordinary presence of guns among my high school cohort, with the approval and SUPERVISION of our elders, prevented tragedies, of the type we now read about from time to time in the hysterical media.

  27. The junior college I was going to in mid 60’s had a western week for everyone to dress up “western.” About mid week someone in authority noticed that a number of students were wearing real revolvers with real ammo in the belt loops.

  28. The moral of the story is:

    NEVER put your kids in GenPop.

  29. We had a “resource officer” in my high school in the late 90s. I don’t recall him ever doing anything police-y aside from wearing the uniform. His job was basically to hang around the common area and talk to teachers and students for a couple of hours a day, then go police somewhere else. Nice enough guy. I imagine today the officers are probably more involved, but not every school-stationed cop is necessarily doing much law enforcement.

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