The Broward County School board teamed up with a group of community partners this month to sign a collaborative agreement on school discipline. The agreement, first of its kind, establishes new guidelines for handling non-violent misdemeanor offenses on school campuses, outlining when law enforcement is necessary and when problems can be handled through school resources.
Representatives from the Broward County-Fort Lauderdale NAACP, Juvenile Judicial Circuit, Public Defender’s office and County Sheriff’s office, among others, signed the agreement with school board members in Fort Lauderdale.
Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie says the new procedures are a common- sense approach that will give students the benefit of the doubt.
“I don’t believe that children fail. I believe that we fail to give them the opportunities to succeed,” Runcie said. “This is one of the proudest days to see the heart and soul of Broward County come out and create an environment for all of our students to have a chance at the American dream.”
During the 2012-2013 school year, Broward County had the highest number of school- related arrests in the state of Florida. The Fort Lauderdale-Broward County NAACP says black children in Broward County have been suspended, arrested and expelled at two-and-a-half times the rate of their white counterparts for the same infractions.
According to NAACP Criminal Justice Director Dr. Niaz Kasravi, this type of racial disparity causes issues outside school walls.
“This is the same problem of racial profiling that we see happening with the stop-and-frisk abuses, the same problem that led to the death of Trayvon Martin,” Kasravi said. “It is time that we break this vicious cycle, and we focus on investing in our student’s education, versus investing in incarcerating them.”
This historic effort to close the schoolhouse-to-jailhouse pipeline relies on school initiatives such as Broward County’s new PROMISE (Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Support and Education) program.
The initiative emphasizes intervention and prevention to help students make better choices the second time around.
The terms of the collaborative agreement go into effect immediately.