Ticketing misbehaving students is counterproductive, say critics of the practice

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When her autistic son appeared in a City Court hearing in Bloom Township, Illinois, for a high school fight in the fall of 2021, Elizabeth Posley noticed he had trouble understanding the official’s questions. of the court on the incident.

“So it’s kind of, like,” Posley said, explaining the officer’s response to Jeremiah, “‘Okay, whatever. You knew better. Seventy-five bucks.

She detailed that $75 levy against her son and asked if the hearing officer knew anything about people with disabilities during a recent webinar about a joint Chicago Tribune and ProPublica ticketing investigation. the police for student misbehavior in Illinois, a practice that exists or has been banned. from various school districts across the country.

Students may be ticketed by School Resource Officers or by local police departments to which school staff members refer students deemed to be disruptive. From misdemeanors to potential criminal offenses such as possession of firearms or assault, students may be cited under local ordinances.

There is no centralized database of the number of school districts that employ this type of discipline. Harold Jordan, senior policy advocate for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, who is also the ACLU’s national education equity coordinator, told the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange that he lobbied for ticketing to be included in the US Department of Education’s definition of law enforcement referrals during the Obama administration. Nevertheless, the federal government does not collect data on school tickets, he said.

Much of the attention on the subject has been generated by a handful of local media outlets. The Texas Tribune tracked the increase in ticketing in that state in 2010, where students as young as 10 were cited. The Center for Public Integrity released a 2011 report on student ticketing in Los Angeles; the city’s Unified School Police Department ended the practice two years later. In 2019, the Lancaster News in Pennsylvania reported on the long-term effects of quotes on young people. Chalkbeat Colorado reported in 2020 on the disparate impact of ticketing on black students in Denver.

“School administrators figure that enlisting law enforcement and using that process can scare the child and… set the tone of, ‘We really mean it. Do together. Start behaving well. But what it does, instead, is push the student further and further,” said webinar panelist Jackie Ross, a law professor at Loyola University School of Law and an attorney. at Loyola’s Civitas ChildLaw Clinic.

Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, a workforce made up largely of former police officers, said his organization has no ticketing policy. As the main training body for these officers, it sets standards for how the police operate in schools. Ticketing isn’t an issue he often hears about from members of the organization, Canady said.

Concern about attacks on teachers is growing; drop in non-fatal school crime among students

As ticketing comes to light, the Edweek Research Center reported in August that more than 40% of educators said at least one teacher in their district had been physically assaulted or attacked by a student during the past year and 10% said a student had bullied them. personally.

Additionally, the National Center for Education Statistics reported that robbery, violence, and other non-fatal student victimization decreased from 2009 to 2019, from 51 per 1,000 youth to 30 per 1,000 youth. In the 2019-20 school year, 77% of public schools recorded at least one crime committed by students, or 29 incidents per 1,000 students. Forty-seven percent of schools reported at least one student-committed crime to sworn law enforcement.

The center also reported that a fifth of students said they had been bullied at school in 2019.

Critics: ticketing disrupts learning

Critics of ticketing argue that the practice does not ensure that authority figures help children recover from their mistakes, rather than simply being punished for them. They also say that some students feel unwelcome at school.

Sangeeta Prasad, executive director of the Center for Children’s Law and Policy, told JJIE, via email, that a child’s failure to show up for a hearing could result in a warrant for their arrest. If a fined youth admits to being guilty of an offence, their parents or guardians can face up to several hundred dollars in fines. Denying guilty of an offense can lead to repeated court appearances, interrupt student learning and potentially cause parents to miss work, she said, calling the ticket office a ‘shocking failure’ .

“We pay taxes for our schools to provide safe learning environments, not to operate ticketing systems with local police,” Prasad said.

The National School Boards Association has no official policy on ticketing, believing it to be a locally determined issue, said Jason Amos, the organization’s communications director. The National Association of School Superintendents did not respond to JJIE’s request for comment.

Although no one to his knowledge tracks ticketing nationwide, the ACLU’s Jordan said what is known is that black and brown students and students with disabilities are disproportionately numbered among those who receive a ticket. Jordan said the ticket has increased over the past 25 years or so as more schools have placed police officers inside school buildings.

He co-authored a 2022 ACLU report finding that police were arresting students and educators were referring students to police more often than they were documenting these actions.

Jordan’s research also found, as examples, that in public schools in Pittsburgh, the state’s second-largest district, one in 70 black students and one in 400 white students were cited. In Erie, where citations were issued to elementary school children, black students received four times more citations than white students.

If there are age limits for arrests, there are none for citations. Offenses involving violence may end up on a permanent or school disciplinary record.

“It’s a lazy response to discipline,” said Ross, of Loyola Law School. “It’s a hasty response to discipline that school officials can take advantage of.” It’s a phone call. And, so, all of these protections that are put in place — to protect children with disabilities, to protect black and brown students — they’re all taken away when it’s a behind-the-scenes process. And that’s the problem. »

School Resource Officer: Tickets Can Avoid Arrests

Canady, of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said he had never seen a student receive a ticket in his 12 years as a school resource officer in Hoover, Alabama, a job from which he retired in 2011.

He read that students had received tickets in other parts of the country, including for offenses such as chewing gum. “And I don’t know how you get there as a law enforcement officer,” he said, challenging the minor offense tickets.

Nonetheless, he added, citations could be issued to avoid police responses to certain offences. If a young person is charged with theft, for example, a ticket may land them in court, with a parent, instead of being arrested by the police.

“The last thing a good SRO does,” Canady said, referring to resource officers, “is to take a student out of school in handcuffs.”

These officers should be carefully selected for their suitability for the job and trained in de-escalation, including talking to students about a problem, instead of taking harsher action, he said.

The philosophy of his organization is that school administrators, not resource officers, should manage and resolve school discipline issues. Its mission is to bridge the gap between youth and law enforcement, Canady said.

“It’s kind of hard to bridge that gap if you’re walking around looking for an opportunity to write a student a ticket for some kind of misbehavior that really should be handled by the school in the first place,” did he declare.

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Law360 editor Micah Danney’s byline has also appeared in the New York Daily News, WNYC, Sojourners, Newsweek, Mental Floss, the GroundTruth Project, The Times of Israel, Religion Unplugged and other publications.

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