In Florida, agreement to reduce student arrests

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

The NAACP said they hope the policy will serve as a model for other districts nationwide.

"People are, I think, becoming more knowledgeable as they see the data and more willing and wanting to fix this problem," said Niaz Kasravi, the NAACP's criminal justice director.

Krezmien said large school districts in particular have struggled to come up with alternatives to zero-tolerance policies because they are often following state guidelines that define what a school disciplinary problem is.

"I think most of them are kind of stuck because they don't have a good model, or they don't have an infrastructure within the school to deal with what really are, most behaviors, school disruptions," Krezmien said. "It's amazing how a disruptive behavior can be deemed a threat and suddenly, it's a kid who's in court over that."

He said creating a policy and implementing it, however, are two distinct challenges, and it will be key for both administrators to receive proper training and for the role of police to be redefined.

Despite data showing the negative consequences of policies that criminalize student misbehavior, Krezmien said there has not been an overall push toward creating zero-tolerance alternatives and said the Broward agreement was unusual.

The U.S. Justice Department and the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights have addressed the issue in individual school districts. In Missisippi, a federal judge has scheduled a December 2014 trial for a Justice Department lawsuit that claims there is a "school-to-prison pipeline" in part of the state that locks up students for minor infractions like flatulence or vulgar language.

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