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From the principal’s office to the courtroom

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In the heat of a tense moment, without planning, without forethought of any subsequent action, a stressed student might pop off a statement that has the potential to bring harsh consequences. If others perceive the verbal outburst as a threat, the student could be arrested and taken to juvenile court.

Such strong reaction to student misbehavior was born in the 1990s with zero-tolerance policies and a national appetite for getting tough on crime. The result of the harsh measures has helped create a school-to-prison pipeline.

Even students who are not arrested can face life-altering consequences if they are disciplined through suspension and expulsion. They will be removed from the classroom, putting them behind in the coursework and at increased risk for dropping out completely.

“We can’t say this is the Wild Wild West and we can do anything we want to children,” said attorney JauNae Hanger.
 

JaeNue Hanger Hanger

Hanger has spent much of her career working on juvenile issues as well as public policy related to reforming the juvenile justice system and how society treats children. In 2012, she helped found and currently serves as board chair of the Children’s Policy and Law Initiative of Indiana, a nonprofit that educates and advocates for fundamental changes to public policy regarding Hoosier children.

A key issue for the organization is school discipline. During the 2014 session of the Indiana General Assembly, CPLI pushed a bill that would have created a model approach to addressing troublesome students without using extreme measures that can cause long-term harm.

The measure, House Bill 1287, was authored by Rep. Greg Porter, D-Indianapolis, and based on the work done by CPLI’s Equitable School Discipline Work Group chaired by retired educator Carole Craig. Although the bill failed to get out of committee, members of the initiative said it broadened the discussion of school discipline issues, and they are hopeful it will be on the Legislature’s summer study agenda.

Putting the hammer away

School principals are now joining the conversation. Todd Bess, executive director of the Indiana Association of School Principals, raised concerns that the bill was drafted without input from teachers, counselors and administrators, and it limits the schools’ discretion in maintaining a climate conducive to learning.

“Principals through and through don’t want to just suspend and expel kids,” Bess said. “The times when they do, they feel like it’s a situation that has to occur for the needs of the school and, this sounds strange, but also the needs of the student.”

The misconception, he said, is that principals remove students from the classroom at the first infraction when actually other means of discipline were tried before the harsh method was applied.

However, Craig said on the whole school discipline codes have become punitive. As an alternative, CPLI is promoting methods that prevent students from causing disruptions and keep bad behavior from spiraling out of control.

“We’re not talking about having unsafe schools, that’s absolutely ridiculous,” Craig said. “We’re talking about using proven interventions and helping children rather than going straight to the hammer.”

Some schools in the state are incorporating best practices into their approach to discipline and showing positive results. HB 1287 sought to expand the use of evidenced-based methods by requiring the Indiana Department of Education to develop a model plan for improving behavior and discipline in the classroom.

Bess said schools do need to use best practices when dealing with student discipline, but he cautioned against what he saw as the bill’s blanket approach to addressing the issue of suspension and expulsion. Sometimes an elevated response is necessary, he continued, and HB 1287 would limit a school’s options.

“Whenever we get into a broad approach like that, there probably would be unintended consequences,” Bess said. “We want to avoid that at all costs.”

Disproportional discipline

Other provisions in the CPLI proposal would require schools to report information related to disciplinary actions and would require the DOE to take a look at disproportionality in discipline.

An examination of data from Indiana’s public schools found that over a five-year period, African-American students were being suspended at a higher rate than other ethnic groups.

According to an analysis for CPLI by Brandie Oliver and Nick Abel, both assistant professors in the College of Education at Butler University, in-school and out-of-school suspensions for African-Americans far exceeded expectations based on total school population.

African-American students represented roughly 12 percent of the total school population in Indiana but they accounted for about 26 to 28 percent of the in-school suspensions from school years 2007 through 2012. The rate climbed for out-of-school suspensions, with 37 to 42 percent of this kind of discipline being assigned to African-Americans.

Neither Oliver nor Abel was surprised by the results of their study, saying it confirmed the anecdotal evidence they have encountered. The pair has requested more specific data from the DOE and hope to have a more comprehensive report on school discipline in Indiana by the end of the summer.

Despite its inability to get to the floor of the Indiana House of Representatives, HB 1287 and the testimony it inspired made an impression on House Education Committee Chair Rep. Robert Behning. He included language in his measure, House Enrolled Act 1319, that urged the Legislative Council to assign the topic of school discipline and suspension of students to a summer study committee.


behning-robert Behning

School discipline is a concern of the General Assembly, the Indianapolis Republican said, especially with regard to minorities who represent a higher rate not only for school suspensions but also in prison populations.

“I do believe it’s something we ought to take a look at and figure out a way to reduce,” Behning said.

CPLI maintains the best way to disconnect the school-to-prison pipeline is to keep the students out of the juvenile justice system and keep them engaged in school. It charges expulsion is used too often, too readily and effects the most vulnerable children.

Bess countered the statistics do not give the entire picture. The data does not provide the whole story of what happened and what other disciplinary strategies were tried before the suspension was issued.

Jill Johnson, assistant division chief of juvenile delinquency at the Marion County Public Defender Agency, questioned the practice of kicking kids out of school. She conceded the jobs of teachers and principals are not easy, but time and time again she has seen students banned from the classroom for months. The students are stuck at home instead of being in school where they have the opportunity to learn and participate in pro-social programs.


johnson Johnson

Recently, the Marion County juvenile courts have begun to pay more attention to classroom discipline by considering alternative approaches for students arrested in school, Johnson said. The courts have shown more willingness to make an informal adjustment which would require a student to stay out of trouble and do something like community service or write a letter of apology.

This is seen by Johnson as a positive step since the informal adjustments can prevent the low-risk, non-violent students from going deeper into the justice system and encountering bad influences.

What Johnson would like to see happen next is the juvenile courts and schools to start working together. Too often, the juvenile justice system feels as if the students are being dumped at the backdoor and schools are saying “they’re your problem now,” she said. Moreover, being arrested at school in front of their peers can be especially traumatic for students.

“Is it a deterrent?” Johnson asked of sending troublesome students to juvenile court. “I don’t know because I don’t know if it’s addressing the heart of what the issue is.”•

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  • very sad
    in reality schools do not care about future of child , feel not responsible. It is because wrong attitude towards public schools , where child's future often getting damaged. Schools can do miracle , if would feel responsible. We have to learn from some other(even much more poor) countries, where children getting great education , and are treated like children , but not like criminals.Human is biggest value , but not money..
  • time for changes
    I lost my daughter after involvement with Juvenile System. She was expelled from school , sent to Girl's school for year for small things , what many teens do. Since then her life and health collapsed, she is lost human. She was 13-14 when she get involved with Juvenile "justice" system.

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  1. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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