Update: Following this report, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe has asked members of his cabinet to recommend policy changes in order to reverse schools’ staggering rate of referrals to the juvenile justice system.
Ever walk or drive by a school and see a police officer stationed on campus? That’s probably a “school resource officer.” He or she is there to – ostensibly – keep the criminal element at bay (i.e., protect the students from drugs, guns and gangs).
Increasingly, though, these officers are being brought in to deal with discipline issues. Some kids aren’t coming home just with suspensions, but also criminal charges. And a disproportionate number of students referred to cops and courts are minorities and special needs children.
Susan Ferriss from The Center for Public Integrity heads to Lynchburg, Virginia, to speak with one family whose 11-year-old son, who has autism, was charged with disorderly conduct and felony assault based on incidents at school – one of which resulted in the boy being taken to the juvenile courthouse in handcuffs.
The rate of students referred to law enforcement in Virginia is almost three times the national rate. If you want to see how many minority and disabled students your state refers to police and courts, check out The Center for Public Integrity’s graphic.