The Waterbury Public Schools are pushing Black and Hispanic students into the juvenile justice system at rates that are speeding up not slowing down the school-to-prison pipeline. We define the school-to-prison pipeline as the interlocking set of policies and practices that criminalize student behavior and place Black and Hispanic youth at greater risk to be incarcerated as adults. In the 2014-15 school year there were 334 student arrests and last year there was 180. So far this year there have been 211 school-based arrests and the police are on track to make over 400 arrests. In our latest data-dive, it is apparent Black and Hispanic students experience a much greater risk to be arrested than their white peers in Waterbury as well as their Black and Hispanic peers in Bridgeport, Hartford, and New Haven. Waterbury’s youngest students are being arrested at much greater rates than in similar districts and all students are subjected to arrest for minor misbehaviors more so than almost any other district in the state.
“When the data is hidden from the public and the applied solutions don’t work the school-to-prison pipeline becomes a public safety issue as well as a public health issue.”
In a 2016 Freedom of Information Commission contested case hearing Waterbury’s district leadership admitted that their data collection system has the capacity to disaggregate this important student-level data but the administration chose not to, therefore, making this type of data not accessible to the public. This was startling and the practice continues today. While this is legal it is not considered a best practice and allows race-based disparities to go unnoticed and unaddressed.
The proposed police managed diversion program is not the solution to school-based arrests or school climate. It wasn’t created by experts nor has it been vetted in a scientific manner. We believe it will become a barrier to a liberatory education experience and at its worst will funnel students into the criminal justice system. Increasing police presence in our schools, increasing police contact with students, and stripping our students of their right to due process is a dangerous proposition that Superintendent Ruffin and the Board of Education should reject outright. Our schools need more counselors and social workers. #PoliceFreeSchools #CounselorsNotCops
Categories: Current Issues