An agreement between a Miami school district, local law enforcement agencies and the NAACP marks a significant step towards fixing a broken system that lands a disproportionate amount of minority students in jails for nonviolent crimes. Referred to as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” students in Florida’s Broward County Public Schools are often “accused of offenses like disrupting class or loitering,” then “suspended, arrested and charged with crimes,” according to the AP.
The new agreement between the three aforementioned parties seeks to find an alternative method of punishment for disobeying students in the school district. The new plan has resulted in several provisions that aim to achieve this effort. Rather than giving authority to school resource officers, for instance, the ability to punish students now lies in the hands of the school principals. This gives principals and other school officials the ability to work with students for nonviolent offenses such as alcohol or drug possession, rather than making them deal directly with police officers, who must then arrest them under the jurisdiction of the law.
This forward-thinking policy allows students to commit up to five non-violent misdemeanors prior to suspension or arrest. With each subsequent incident, however, the punishment grows more severe.
According to the AP, Broward Superintendent Robert Runcie said that “the district has already seen a 41 percent decline in the number of school-related arrests” since the new policy was implemented at the beginning of this school year.
Runcie explained that he noticed the need for a reform to the system after becoming superintendent two years ago.
“One other thing I heard quite a bit about was students being arrested for things that I would never have believed constituted an arrest. For example, tardiness. Trespassing. Throwing spit balls. Things that you just, using a common sense approach, would say, we wouldn’t want to do this to a child because once you get a record, it basically stays with you for life,” Runcie said.
It appears as if Runcie’s significant improvements to the school system in South Florida is being noticed and appreciated. According to the Sun-Sentinel, Runcie’s contract was extended by the Broward School Board through 2019.