Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Go Directly To Jail...

By Pat Rossiter, Connecticut YOUTH Forum Program Manager

The ACLU has been busy in Connecticut’s schools. Two reports were released today outlining the way kids are being treated in schools.

The first, “Hard Lessons: School Resource Officer Programs and School-Based Arrests in Three Connecticut Towns,” outlines the rate of arrests of students in Hartford, East Hartford and West Hartford’s schools. According to this article, the report indicates that minority students are arrested at double the rate of white students for the same offense.

In New Haven, “Zero-Tolerance” policies “…force school administrators to seek suspensions or expulsions of students even when the sanctions serve no legitimate or substantial state interest,” and “deprive students of rights to education.”

I have two thoughts. Isn’t the presence of a police officer in a school a presumption of guilt that would not be tolerated by any adult in their workplace? It certainly conjures images of “Big Brother” in my mind and, it would seem, gives a clear message to students in schools: this environment is unsafe and YOU are making it that way.

Next, nothing in my life or in any part of the world I have observed is ever black and white. “Zero-tolerance” policies are archaic and ineffective. Education of kids is not simply arithmetic, English and other academic pursuits. It is teaching children how to interact and solve conflicts and be, well adults. Where I come from, adults look at all sides of a conflict or issue and make a reasonable decision. Those are the kinds of lessons we can all learn from.

I’d love to hear comments and reactions…

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