ACLU Report Reveals Arrests at Hartford-Area Schools on Rise

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Will Matthews, ACLU, (212) 549-2582 or 2666; media@aclu.org
Andrew Schneider, ACLU of Connecticut, (860) 247-9823, ext. 219; aschneider@acluct.org

ACLU

ACLU Report Reveals Arrests at Hartford-Area Schools on Rise

Ineffective Use Of School Resource Officers Leads to Over-Criminalization of Youth, Study Finds

HARTFORD, Conn. - Police
arrests of students at Hartford-area schools are on the rise, according
to a new American Civil Liberties Union report released today, a trend
that disproportionately impacts children of color.

The ACLU report, entitled "Hard
Lessons: School Resource Officer Programs and School-Based Arrests in
Three Connecticut Towns," also shows how the use by school districts in
Hartford, East Hartford and West Hartford of school resource officers
who are not adequately trained and whose objectives are not clearly
defined leads to the criminalization of students at the expense of
their education.

The report's findings are just the
latest examples of a disturbing national trend known as the "school to
prison pipeline" wherein children are over-aggressively funneled out of
public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems.

"Our goal is to ensure that everyone
has an equal opportunity to receive a quality education," said Jamie
Dycus, staff attorney with the ACLU Racial Justice Program and the
primary author of the report. "Relying too heavily on arrests as a
disciplinary measure impedes that goal and only serves to ensure that
some of our most vulnerable populations are criminalized at very young
ages before alternatives are exhausted that could lead to academic
success."

According to the report, students in
West Hartford and East Hartford are arrested at school at a rate far
out of proportion to their numbers. During the 2006-07 school year, for
example, black and Hispanic students together accounted for 69 percent
of East Hartford's student population, but experienced 85 percent of
its school-based arrests. In West Hartford during the same year, black
and Hispanic students accounted for 24 percent of the population, but
experienced 63 percent of the arrests.

The report also found that during
the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years in both East and West Hartford,
students of color committing minor disciplinary infractions were more
likely to get arrested than white students committing the very same
offenses. Black students involved in physical altercations in West
Hartford were twice as likely to be arrested as white students involved
in similar altercations. During the same time period in East Hartford,
black and Hispanic students involved in disciplinary incidents
involving drugs, alcohol or tobacco were ten times more likely to be
arrested than white students involved in similar incidents.

Additionally, students in Hartford,
East Hartford and West Hartford are being arrested at school at very
young ages. During the 2005-06 and 2006-07 school years, 86 primary
grade students were arrested at school in Hartford. A majority of those
arrested were seventh or eighth graders, but 25 were in grades four
through six and 13 were in grade three or below. 

"Research shows that the earlier
children are exposed to the criminal justice system, the more likely
they are to commit crimes later in life," Dycus said. "Relying
primarily on arrests rather than other forms of behavioral intervention
cements an unfortunate cycle of criminalization which, in the end,
doesn't benefit our kids and doesn't benefit our communities."

The report also highlights the lack
of a clearly defined role and minimum training requirements for school
resource officers on the campus of Hartford-area schools. The report
found that officers in Hartford and West Hartford, for example, are not
subject to formal written policies or agreements clearly describing
their duties. Neither Hartford nor West Hartford requires special
training for its school resource officers, and in all three districts,
data collection and reporting on the subject of school-based arrests -
a critical element of any effort to monitor and evaluate school
resource officer program performance - is inadequate.

The ACLU today also released a
second report entitled "Dignity Denied: The Effect of 'Zero Tolerance'
Policies on Students' Human Rights," which analyzes the impact on the
human rights of students in the New Haven Unified School District of
involving the criminal justice system in school discipline policies.

A joint project of the ACLU, the
ACLU of Connecticut and the Allard K. Lowenstein International Human
Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, the report argues that subjecting
students to the criminal justice system as a means of school discipline
deprives them the right to be free from discrimination, the right to
education, the right to proportionality in punishment and the right to
freedom of expression.

A copy of the ACLU report "Hard
Lessons: School Resource Officer Programs and School-Based Arrests in
Three Connecticut Towns" can be found online at: www.aclu.org/racialjustice/edu/37767pub20081117.html

A copy of the ACLU report "Dignity
Denied: The Effect of 'Zero Tolerance' Policies on Students' Human
Rights" can be found online at: www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/gen/37768pub20081117.html

Additional information about the ACLU can be found online at: www.aclu.org

 

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