Broward News

Florida School Arrests Down, But Still Disproportionately Affect Black Youth

Page 2 of 2

For example, in 2009-10, there were 18,361 arrests of kids in grades six through twelve. In 2013-14, there were 10,340 such arrests -- a 36 percent decrease.

Statewide, though, school arrests are still lopsided when it comes to race. Florida is 56 percent white, 24 percent Hispanic, and 17 percent black, but here's how school arrests breakdown by race:

All charts courtesy of DJJ

The top three offenses were for non-aggravated assault or battery; misdemeanor drug offenses; and disorderly conduct -- all misdemeanors. The next three most arrestable crimes were felonies: aggravated assault/battery; weapons/firearms; felony drug offenses.

According to Mark Greenwald, the director of research at DJJ, the drop in arrests is not necessarily due to a drop in crime, although he does point out that violent crime has been steadily going down across the nation, including Florida, for several years now. However, the crime researcher also credits alternatives to school arrests, such as civil citations and treatment programs for youths who are accused of misdemeanors at school.

And according to Greenwald, Broward County is at the forefront of this practice.

"Last year saw a dramatic expansion in civil citations in Broward County, which has a very close correlation to reductions in misdemeanor arrests and increase in civil citations for misdemeanors," Greenwald tells New Times.

Broward County saw a 51 percent drop in school arrests between 2012-13 and 2013-14, going from 911 to 449. Overall, Broward averages three arrests per 1,000 school youths, with a school population of 138,832. The previous three years also saw steady declines, from 1,672 arrests in 2009-10 to 1,054 in 2011-12.

Greenwald says the civil citations are handled like traffic tickets. Sometimes a fine might be handed out, other times a few hours of community service is required. But for more serious incidents, the old way of doing things was to throw a kid in jail. Nowadays, there's a move towards a more humane -- and smarter -- way of doing things: Give a kid an assessment to see if he or she needs some extra programs to deal with the issues.

See also: Should a Juvenile Serve 23 Years for Shooting a Retired Police Dog?

"The vast majority of kids, they just did something stupid and they will just need to do some community service or be fined," Greenwald says. "But some youths, there might be something going on underneath the hood, and so that assessment process helps us identity what that need is and we can refer them to other services to address whatever those issues are. And as long as they complete those services, the ticket goes away, there's no formal arrest, and they have no record that's gonna follow them."

Palm Beach County, with a school population of 96,421, has also shown steady declines in school arrests, going from 695 school arrests in 2009-10 to 432 in 2013-14.

However, even though both Broward and Palm Beach counties have seen these declines, the racial demographics are still extremely lopsided.

KEEP NEW TIMES BROWARD-PALM BEACH FREE... Since we started New Times Broward-Palm Beach, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of South Florida, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Ray Downs
Contact: Ray Downs