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Eliminating the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Pipeline

Eliminating the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Pipeline

Joint Op-Ed by NAACP Fort Lauderdale/Broward President and Broward County Public Schools Superintendent

By Nadine Drew

It may be startling, but it is a fact that in the 2011-2012 school year, Broward County Public Schools (BCPS) led the entire state of Florida in the number of students arrested on school campuses. The majority of these incidents involved non-violent, misdemeanor incidents. Over half of these students had never been referred to the Juvenile Justice System prior to these incidents.

School safety is a priority and students must face consequences for their actions.  However, we also know that arrests and contact with the criminal justice system severely hinder a student’s chance of graduating on time, attending college, joining the military and getting a job. Across the country, failing zero tolerance policies are also creating higher dropout rates, lowering academic achievement and resulting in students, particularly students of color, not receiving the help they need.

This is why BCPS, in partnership with community organizations like the NAACP, local law enforcement and government agencies have come together to eliminate the “schoolhouse to jailhouse pipeline” through programs such as PROMISE  (Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support and Education).  PROMISE is a unique Broward County initiative de-signed to address the needs of students who commit non-violent behavioral infractions that previously could have resulted in the student entering the Juvenile Justice System. Through the PROMISE program, students are temporarily placed in an alternative educational setting, in lieu of arrest, where they receive behavioral supports, counseling and mentoring in an environment focused on helping them make better life choices.

The NAACP, alongside a coalition of civil rights organizations and community groups, has worked with BCPS to revise the District’s student discipline policies that placed too many students in the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Pipeline.  We are happy to announce the signing of a historic Collaborative Agreement on School Discipline, which took place on November 5, 2013, between the School Board of Broward County, Florida, Fort Lauderdale–Broward branch NAACP, Seventeenth Judicial Court, Office of the State Attorney, Law Office of the Public Defender, Broward County Sheriff’s Office, Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, and the Juvenile Justice Advisory Board, with the support of parents, teachers and school leaders.

As part of the collaborative agreement, we are continuing efforts to establish and implement guidelines for the handling of school-based student misbehavior.  Already this school year, we are seeing positive results, including a decrease in suspensions by 66.2 percent compared to the same time period in 2012.  Expulsion abeyance placement was also reduced by 51.4 percent and school-related arrests are down by 40.7 percent.

Broward County is home to many of the smartest students in the nation and our teachers are second to none. Our school district is committed to producing scholars, innovators, and leaders for America and the global community.  By working together, we are demonstrating to the nation a proactive strategy for minimizing the number of children who are funneled out of our schools and into our criminal justice system for non-violent misdemeanor offenses.  Most importantly, we are establishing a disciplinary system that will ultimately increase student achievement, increase student engagement, increase access to college and strengthen our community for this generation and those to come.

Marsha Ellison, president NAACP – Fort Lauderdale/Broward

Robert  W. Runcie  Superintendent  Broward County Public Schools





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