Some Schools Scaling Back Use of Police, Zero Tolerance Policies

Trying education instead



The New York Times reports on a trend at some public schools of scaling back tough-on-crime, zero tolerance-like policies the paper says first began to be implemented around the country in the 1990s as part of the war on drugs.  The Times focuses on Broward County, where:

the shift has shown immediate results, although it is too early to predict overall success. School-based arrests have dropped by 41 percent, and suspensions, which in 2011 added up to 87,000 out of 258,000 students, are down 66 percent from the same period in 2012, school data shows.

Under the new agreement, students caught for the first time committing any of 11 nonviolent misdemeanors are no longer arrested and sent to court. Rather, they attend counseling and perform community service.

The Times also notes the Obama administration's role:

Beginning in 2009, the Department of Justice and the Department of Education aggressively began to encourage schools to think twice before arresting and pushing children out of school. In some cases, as in Meridian, Miss., the federal government has sued to force change in schools.

Some view the shift as politically driven and worry that the pendulum may swing too far in the other direction. Ken Trump, a school security consultant, said that while existing policies are at times misused by school staffs and officers, the policies mostly work well, offering schools the right amount of discretion.

A school security consultant! And we have a problem with too much school security? Supporters of the policy shift in Broward county includes at least one judge who wants you to know he's no liberal. From the Times:

"We started to see the officers as a disciplinary tool," said Judge Elijah H. Williams of Broward County Circuit Court, a juvenile judge who said he was "no flaming liberal" but saw the need for change. "Somebody writes graffiti in a stall, O.K., you're under arrest. A person gets caught with a marijuana cigarette, you're under arrest."

So they'll still be arresting students for non-violent crimes. School security consultants can breathe easy.

Scott Shackford noted efforts in LA to roll back the use of police in schools there last week and the wider backlash against zero tolerance in schools last year.

More Reason on zero tolerance and police in schools.