Arrested Futures: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts' Three Largest School Districts

Document Date: May 2, 2012
Affiliate: ACLU of Massachusetts

On October 23, 2007, a 14-year-old boy at the Kennedy Middle School in Springfield, Massachusetts, was arrested after he refused to walk with a teacher to her office and instead returned to his classroom. According to the police report, he yelled at the teacher, bounced a basketball in a school hallway, failed to respond to a police officer’s request to go with the teacher and slammed his classroom door shut. He was subsequently taken into police custody, handcuffed, transported to the police station and charged with “disturbing a lawful assembly.”

This incident illustrates a matter of growing concern to educators, parents and advocates: the extent to which the permanent on-site presence of police officers in public schools results in the criminalization of disruptive behavior. While other research has focused on zero-tolerance policies and the overuse of out-of-school suspension and expulsion as significant factors in feeding the “School-to-Prison Pipeline,” this report focuses on the additional problem of arrest, in particular the use of arrest to address behavior that would likely be handled in the school by school staff if not for the presence of on-site officers.

From the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Massachusetts, Citizens for Juvenile Justice
Principal Author: Robin L. Dahlberg

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