Florida school districts still over-criminalizing kids, says ACLU and NAACP
Despite much-touted changes in state law in 2009, Florida school districts are still severely punishing too many kids for minor infractions, and still referring too many to law enforcement and the juvenile justice system, says a report due out today from the ACLU of Florida, the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and an outfit called the Advancement Project.
The report, "Still Haven't Shut Off the School-to-Prison Pipeline," has not been officially released yet, but according to the draft: Nearly half of Florida school districts had more referrals to the Department of Juvenile Justice last year than they did before passage of SB 1540, which amended the state's "zero tolerance" discipline policies. More than 12,000 of those referrals were for misdemeanors. And the percentage of minority students in the mix actually increased - to 65 percent - after the law went into effect.
"Because Florida's students continue to have their educational opportunities - and thus, their life chances - limited by the over-use of harsh and unfair school discipline, there is an urgent need for action, at both the state and local levels," the report says.
The report singles out several districts for problems, but does not mention Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco or Hernando.
(It does, though, lead with the 2005 arrest of 5-year-old Ja'eisha Scott in St. Petersburg.)
It does not provide a breakdown of referral numbers by district, or any other district-by-district information.
Among a long list of recommendations: "Strengthen the text of SB 1540 to expressly prohibit the arrest, citation, expulsion, disciplinary referral to an alternative school, and out-of-school suspension longer than five days of students for all offenses that do not pose a serious, ongoing threat to the safety of students or staff."