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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

After jail, back to school

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Broward County’s school system has built a prison-to-school pipeline, writes Paul Sperry of RealClearInvestigations. “Thousands of other potentially dangerous students released from local jails” have been “transitioned” to mainstream schools under a program to “re-engage” juvenile offenders.

Another initiative, the Behavior Intervention Program, attempts to mainstream a smaller number of “students who exhibit severe, unmanageable behavior,” according to a 2017-2018 program handbook, including those who are “convicted of a serious crime such as rape, murder, attempted murder, sexual battery or firearm related [offense].” . . . While some convicted offenders have been sent to Cypress Run Education Center in Pompano Beach – a high-security alternative school where released delinquents and kids with severe behavior problems who have committed expellable offenses are sent temporarily – records show almost 60 percent have been reassigned to the schools they attended before incarceration. These mainstreamed students typically get additional support, such as weekly counseling, at their schools.

It’s not clear whether ex-offenders are causing problems for their classmates and teachers. The district hasn’t released any data, writes Sperry. Many people don’t know the program exists.

In 2013, Broward school and police officials agreed to a plan to reduce racial disparities in juvenile arrests and incarceration, writes Sperry. Police agreed “to speak with school officials before deciding whether to arrest any student, white or minority, for misdemeanor crimes that had previously warranted arrest.”

Chronically violent but never arrested, Nikolas Cruz was sent to a special school for students with social and emotional disorders, then enrolled in a large school, Douglas High in Parkland. He was kicked out for attacking classmates. School officials and the school resource officer recommended involuntary commitment for a mental evaluation, but it wasn’t done. With no arrests and no mental health record, he was able to buy weapons legally.

Rather than arming teachers or hiring armed guards, I think we should focus on creating orderly school environments. That means helping troubled students deal with their problems. That doesn’t always work: Cruz got all sorts of counseling. So it also means sending students who can’t behave to alternative schools to keep everyone else safe.

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