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The Absolute Best School Climate Blogging (This Week): Police in Schools Edition

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Happy Friday, Rules readers. Let's kick off this week's blog roundup with this excellent analysis of data on students referred to law enforcement released today by The Center for Public Integrity.Thumbnail image for rules-abscb.jpg

The nonprofit news organization analyzed 2011-12 data from the U.S. Department of Education's office for civil rights to determine which states' schools referred the highest portions of their students to police and courts and to explore patterns in those referrals. Among the findings:

  • Nationally, about six of every 1,000 students were referred to law enforcement that year, with 19 states surpassing that rate.
  • Virginia had about 16 referrals for every 1,000 students, followed by Delaware with almost 15; Florida with more than 12; and Wyoming and New Hampshire with nearly 12 referrals for every 1,000 students. 
  • About 26 percent of all students referred to law enforcement nationally were special-needs kids—kids with physical or learning disabilities—even though these kids represent only 14 percent of U.S. enrollment.
  • As with other forms of school discipline, the report found disproportionately high rates of referrals for students of color compared to their white peers.

"The findings raise questions about what kind of incidents at school really merit police or court intervention, and provide fodder for a growing national debate over whether children, especially those in minority groups, are getting pushed into a so-called 'school-to-prison pipeline' unnecessarily and unjustly," the report says. "What's happening in some schools seems almost directly at odds with guidance from the U.S. Department of Education."

What's triggering these student interactions with police? The article lists several examples, including a 6th grade boy with autism who faced multiple charges, including assault of a police officer, after he kicked a trash can and misbehaved in front of a school-based officer. In another example, a 12-year-old Virginia girl "was charged earlier this year with four misdemeanors—including obstruction of justice for 'clenching her fist' at a school cop who intervened in a school fight."

Such interactions with police and courts can lead to damaging stigma or snowball into a larger criminal record, the report says. It includes a comment by U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education for Civil Rights Catherine Lhamon, who highlighted a key part of discipline guidance released in 2014 by the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice: That schools are obligated to ensure that outside law enforcement agencies that work in their buildings are respecting the civil rights of their students.

For more on interactions of police in schools, you might want to check out these Education Week articles and blog posts:

After you finish reading those, check out these other good reads on school climate and student well-being.

On religious liberty ...

"Adriel Arocha was a kindergartner with long braids in 2008 when his American Indian religious beliefs and those of his father, Kenney, ran smack into the grooming policy of the Needville, Texas, school system—and led to a federal court ruling centered on that state's religious-freedom law."
—Mark Walsh explores how state religious liberty laws affect schools.

On substitutions for suspensions ...

"Peer mediation programs can work. Youth justice courts can work. If not pursued with the proper resources, time and commitment, restorative justice will fail. But don't tell me suspending a student in a room for three days without instruction is preferable to building systems to transform punitive discipline and create powerful relationships across school communities."
—Letters to the editor of the Wall Street Journal respond to recent criticisms of discipline practices in New York City schools.

Are teens ever offline?

"Aided by the convenience and constant access provided by mobile phones, 92% of teens report going online daily—with 24% using the internet 'almost constantly,' 56% going online several times a day, and 12% reporting once-a-day use."
—The Pew Research Center takes a look at how the kids these days are using the Internet.

Is it anything like a real baby? Maybe ...

"As a way to show the difficulties of parenting, variations of this assignment have become a classic rite of passage for teens across the country. Long before the days of simulator dolls, students used all sorts of low-tech infants made of things like flour or sugar bags and, perhaps most famously, eggs."
—NPR looks at the tradition of making teens carry around simulated babies to learn about parenthood.

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