ACLU Study Urges Florida Schools to Drop Zero-Tolerance Policy
MIAMI — The ACLU of Florida, Advancement Project and the Florida State Conference of NAACP have released a report on the impacts of zero-tolerance policies in Florida schools. The study, titled “Still Haven’t Shut Off the School-to-Prison Pipeline: Evaluating the Impact of Florida’s New Zero-Tolerance Law,” alleges that zero-tolerance policies remove children from school and needlessly place them in the criminal justice system.
The passage of SB 1540 revised Florida’s zero-tolerance policy by encouraging schools to limit the use of expulsions and referrals to law enforcement for minor offenses, according to an ACLU press release. However, the study conducted by the group found that racial disparities in referrals to the juvenile justice system increased after the passage of SB 1540. Also, the study found that 67 percent of student referrals (more than 12,000) to the juvenile justice system were for misdemeanor offenses.
“This research shows clearly that, contrary to recommendations of the Department of Juvenile Justice’s Blueprint Commission, many school districts are needlessly referring too many students to the criminal justice system,” says Howard Simon, executive director of the ACLU of Florida in the press release. “These policies are called the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ for a reason, and they are funneling our children out of school and into the arms of the juvenile and criminal justice system – denying many Florida children the right to a quality education.”
The study recommends that the Florida State Legislation consider other disciplinary options and policies. These include the clarification of the roles and responsibilities of school police through a memorandum of understanding between the school district and police department; also the increase of funding for guidance counselors, social workers and school psychologists.