In Florida, agreement to reduce student arrests

Published: Tuesday, November 5, 2013 at 11:33 AM.

No student would be arrested for a first non-violent misdemeanor, but further offenses will result in graduated levels of school-based interventions. After a fifth incident, students are referred to law enforcement.

Felonies or serious threats will still be handled by police.

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."

Runcie worked with the NAACP to create a new student code of conduct. The NAACP said they had attempted to address student discipline with two previous superintendents, without any success.

"Everybody deserves a second chance and this program will do just that," said Marsha Ellison, president of the Fort Lauderdale/Broward County NAACP. "And all students will be treated equally no matter what the color of their skin."



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