By Derek Black
October 20, 2016
"It is hard to preach lessons to law enforcement when schools are not even following those lessons themselves."
The ACLU of California has released a new report titled The Right To Remain a Student: How California School Policies Fail to Protect and Serve.
The report begins:
"Over the past two decades, police officers in the United States have increasingly displaced school administrators as disciplinarians, responding to minor offenses and conduct violations that pose no direct threat to personal safety. This increase in student-police interactions has funneled thousands of students into the school-to-prison pipeline and created adverse legal consequences for school districts.
The Right to Remain a Student: How California School Policies Fail to Protect and Serve details these consequences and describes the current state of school district policies in California that pertain to police on campus. Additionally, it shares model policies that both promote school safety and protect student rights. These model policies are designed to ensure that school staff will manage police encounters safely and equitably for all students—no matter their race, class, disability status, gender, or where they go to school."
"Many districts have conflicting, vague, or absent law enforcement policies that provide little to no meaningful guidance to school staff on when to call police to campus or how to interact with police.
Most school districts give staff complete discretion to call police to address student misbehaviors that should be handled by school staff such as administrators or counselors, including:
- a. General school rule violations (62% of districts give staff discretion);
- b. Bullying and harassment (60.7% of districts give staff discretion);
- c. School disruption (57.4% of districts give staff discretion); and,
- d. Vandalism (66.7% of districts give staff discretion or even require reporting to police).
Very few schools (4% or less in each category) have policies limiting police contact for rule-breaking or minor offenses.
California school districts provide inadequate guidance to school staff on what they should do when police officers question students on campus.
- a. Of school districts statewide, 70.9% allow police officers to interview students immediately upon demand, stating that staff “shall not hinder or delay” interrogations;
- b. Less than 1% provide that an adult (not a police officer) must be present to make sure the student’s civil rights are observed during police questioning;
- c. Only 1.3% of districts have a police ensuring that staff or police advise students of their constitutional right to remain silent.
California school districts similarly do not protect students who are arrested or removed from campus by police.
- a. Of California school districts, 30% have no barriers to police removing a student from campus and 8% provide no guidance whatsoever about police officers removing students from campus;
- b. Only 18.3% of California school districts require a school administrator to ascertain the reason the officer must remove the student from school;
- c. Only 5.6% of school districts maintain any procedures governing the enforcement of arrest warrants on campus."
A key thesis of the report is the need to distinguish between every day misbehavior of students and other behavior that may actually justify police involvement. As I emphasize in the book Ending Zero Tolerance, many schools do not even distinguish between these types of behavior in their own suspension and expulsion policies, which has also caused a dramatic increase in school exclusion.
In other words, it is hard to preach lessons to law enforcement when schools are not even following those lessons themselves.