JUVENILE JUSTICE: School Discipline and Youth Arrests

Background:

·   In 2011, PACT congregations decided to focus on reducing out-of-school suspensions. In 2012, 95% of out of school suspensions are for minor (non-violent) infractions and students with 1 out-of-school suspensions are twice as likely to drop out of school.

·   Following the commitments we won at our 2012 Nehemiah Action, the code of conduct was changed and suspensions dropped by 32%. However, many of the top schools with out-of-school suspensions did not reduce the number of suspensions. Therefore, we continued our work.

·   In July 2015, Miami Dade County Public Schools officially eliminated out–of-school suspensions! 

·   Now, Level 1 and level 2 offenses are addressed at the school. Students with repeat Level 2 or Level 3 offenses of the code of conduct are sent to “Success Centers”.  

 

Success Centers

PACT Clergy, family members, students, and community members have been regularly checking in with the 9 Success Centers to ensure that our county is using best practices. There is a lot of room for improvement. Our community cannot allow for problems to shift from out-of-school suspensions to holding rooms disguised as ‘success’. In recognizing that the Success Centers are working with our community’s most vulnerable children, we want to ensure that Success Centers are:

  • Separating children by ages
  • Doing individual assessment for children entering a Center
  • Making transportation options available
  • Having a standard re-integration plan for the student and their school

There is a reason why the child is acting out and if they don't receive care and support on individual basis then the problem is never going to be fixed. By sending a child to get punished and threatened guarantees their return with same if not more problems.

Restorative Justice

·   We are pleased to hear that ESTOPP, Eradicating the School to Prison Pipeline, was contracted to provide Restorative Justice training in two pilot schools (Cutler Bay & Brownsville Middle).

·   Restorative Justice is a process where all students, teachers, staff, who have been affected by the deviant act receive an opportunity to talk about how they have been affected by the deviant act or crime and to decide what should be done to repair the harm. Under these circumstances, conversations with those who have been hurt and with those who have perpetrated the wrongdoing, must be central to the process. In many school districts and cities, i.e. Oakland, CA., these restorative justice programs have contributed to a tremendous drop in crime and deviancy and the number of students who are acting out.

 

Civil Citations

·   PACT is working with 9 other Justice Ministry organizations to ensure that all counties in Florida are using the Civil Citation program for a child’s first time misdemeanor.

·   The Civil Citation program gives children the opportunity to complete prevention services without being arrested. “Rather than issuing an arrest, police officers refer eligible children to Juvenile Services Department where they will receive an assessment and application of appropriate, targeted interventions without the stigma of an arrest. Program participation ranges approximately 90-120 days.” [1]

Read more about Civil Citations here: http://www.miamidade.gov/juvenileservices/civil-citation.asp

[1] Miami Dade County (2014). Juvenile Services Department. www.miamidade.gov/juvenileservices/civil-citation.asp

Additional reading here:

-October 2016: http://wlrn.org/post/school-suspensions-continue-spite-miami-dades-no-suspension-policy

-June 2016: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article83033207.html

-Sept. 2015: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/education/article36755190.html

-July 2015: https://stateimpact.npr.org/florida/2015/07/29/miami-dade-schools-eliminating-out-of-school-suspensions/