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Advances in Juvenile Justice Reform: School-to-Prison Pipeline

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  • California Bans Incarceration of Truant Youth
    Senate Bill 1296 prohibits a court from securely detaining or otherwise taking into custody youth who were adjudicated truant and failed to comply with a valid court order to attend school. The legislation authorizes a court to issue any other lawful order, as necessary, to secure the youth’s attendance at school.  Although past laws specifically prohibited incarceration of adjudicated truants, court decisions had created a loophole.  The decisions held that when a youth had been ordered to attend school and still failed to do so, the court was then permitted to incarcerate that youth for violating court orders. This legislation closed that loophole and decriminalized truancy. Senate Bill 1296 was authored by Senator Mark Leno and signed into law on June 28, 2014.


  • California Schools to Use Safety Plans to Encourage Positive School Climate: In order to help limit suspensions, expulsions, and arrests, California amended its education code to encourage schools to develop school safety plans that include specific guidelines for the roles and responsibilities of adults with school-related health and safety responsibilities, such as school resource officers, community intervention professionals, and school counselors. The law authorizes the use of the plans as primary strategies for maintaining a positive school climate, and for prioritizing mental health and intervention services, restorative and transformative justice programs, and positive behavior interventions and support. A.B. 549/Act No. 422, signed into law September 30, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Los Angeles Bans Suspensions for Willful Defiance: The Los Angeles Unified School District voted to ban suspensions for willful defiance, passing a School Climate Bill of Rights with a five-to-two vote. Prior to the ban, students who failed to comply with any policy or instruction given by teachers or school administrators—including wearing baggy pants or talking back—were automatically suspended due to zero-tolerance policies. The ban stemmed from concerns that the existing policy was excessively harsh and disproportionately affected students of color, and from the acknowledgment that removing students from school can lead directly to involvement in the juvenile justice system. The ban provided momentum for a pending bill that would institute a statewide ban on suspensions for willful defiance (A.B. 420). The School Climate Bill of Rights also requires schools to exhaust all alternatives to suspension prior to suspending a student; develop and implement restorative justice practices; provide students and parents with data on suspensions, expulsions and arrests; use school-wide Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports; limit involvement of school police in non-threatening school discipline actions; and provide notice to parents and students of their right to appeal a suspension. Passed May 14, 2013.
  • Colorado Limits Detention of Youth for Failure to Attend School: Colorado school districts must now monitor student attendance, identify students who are chronically absent or habitually truant, and implement best practices to improve student attendance. Schools must work collaboratively with community organizations to create a multidisciplinary plan to improve a student’s attendance and only initiate court proceedings if this plan is unsuccessful. If a student fails to comply with a court order to compel attendance, the law limits detention to no more than five days. Prior to the law’s enactment, a student could be detained for up to 45 days. The law also explicitly requires that school districts provide educational services to juvenile detention facilities that align with the compulsory school attendance requirements and state model content standards. H.B. 1021/Act No. 335, signed into law May 28, 2013; effective August 7, 2013.
  • Connecticut State Advisory Group Creates Network to Reduce Arrests and Increase Collaboration between Schools and Police: Connecticut’s State Advisory Group (SAG), the Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, created the “Right Response CT” network, which works to enhance school safety and reduce arrests through consistent and appropriate handling of students who are disruptive. Sixteen communities received small grants from the SAG to: 1) establish a local collaboration team with school, police, and community membership; 2) participate in at least three network sessions; 3) send at least 10 school staff to a training on effective school staff interactions with students and police; 4) customize or revise, sign, and implement a memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the superintendent of schools and the chief of police based upon a model developed by the SAG; and 5) increase or enhance preventive and/or intervention strategies. The grants led to the creation of 20 MOAs between police and schools in the first four years.
  • Florida — Broward County School District Agrees to Curb the Role of Police in Schools: Florida’s second-largest school district signed a memorandum of understanding with juvenile justice stakeholders to limit law enforcement’s role in school discipline. The parties agreed to virtually eliminate arrests for school-based incidents involving misdemeanor offenses committed by students.  Prior to this agreement, Broward County led the state, with 1,062 arrests from its schools in 2011-12, 71 percent of which were for misdemeanor offenses. The agreement ensures that schools limit the involvement of law enforcement officers only to behavior that threatens the physical safety of students and staff. The agreement is embedded in the student code of conduct and a discipline matrix that guides school officials’ responses to student misbehavior. In addition, the agreement establishes a new program that provides a school-based alternative to arrest and suspension, mandates training, and requires the collection and assessment of discipline data. Memorandum of understanding signed November 5, 2013.
  • Florida — Polk County School District Settlement Ensures Education for Children in County Jail: The Southern Poverty Law Center reached a settlement with the Polk County School District to ensure that children detained at the county jail have their math and reading skills evaluated upon arrival and receive an appropriate education while detained. The complaint arose after a change in Florida law, driven by Polk County, that allows counties to hold children awaiting adjudication of delinquency charges in county jail instead of a Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) facility. County jails are not subject to DJJ standards or oversight. With this settlement, the school district agreed that DJJ educational standards will apply to youth in county jails, regardless of whether they are tried as juveniles or adults. The agreement also states that teachers assigned to the jail must obtain certification to teach special education classes, positive behavioral interventions and supports must be implemented in the classrooms, and the district must retain a transition coordinator to assist students as they return to school and/or transition to adulthood. Settlement agreement signed August 8, 2013.
  • Florida — Palm Beach County School District Settlement Curbs Role of Police in Schools: After the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice investigated a civil rights complaint filed against the Palm Beach County School District in 2011, the district agreed to a settlement with the Department of Justice in 2013 intended to establish an inclusive and fair school discipline policy. Among other things, schools may no longer use law enforcement officers to respond to behavior that could otherwise be appropriately managed under school disciplinary procedures. Schools may only involve law enforcement when required by state law, when necessary to protect the physical safety of students and staff, or to address the criminal conduct of people other than students. The settlement also ensures due process for students before they are excluded from school, establishes discipline procedures that create a positive school climate, supports language accessibility, and mandates the collection and assessment of discipline data. Settlement agreement between the United States of America and the School District of Palm Beach County, signed February 26, 2013.
  • Indiana Legislature Requires Schools to Develop Plan on Seclusion and Restraint in School: The Indiana General Assembly established the Commission on Seclusion and Restraint in Schools, charged with adopting rules concerning the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. The legislation required the commission to develop a model restraint and seclusion plan by August 1, 2013. The model plan focuses on prevention, use of positive behavior interventions and supports, teacher training, parental notification, and use of restraints and seclusion only as a last resort and for as short a time as possible. The model plan states that seclusion and restraint must never be used as punishment or discipline, as a means of coercion or retaliation, or as a convenience. All schools were required to adopt a seclusion and restraint plan by July 1, 2014. S.E.A. 345/P.L. 122-2013, signed into law April 30, 2013
  • Maryland — Juvenile Court and School Safety Workgroup Aims to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Disparities through Diversion of School-Based Arrests and Court Referrals: The newly established Prince George’s County Juvenile Court and School Safety Workgroup is to develop interagency policies to reduce the number of school-based arrests and referrals to court by diverting youth to community-based programs. The initiative is modeled after similar reform work in Clayton County, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama; and Baltimore, Maryland and is intended to be part of broader, statewide detention reform in Maryland. The group’s overarching goal is to reduce the over-representation of African-American youth in the system. The group submitted a report in December 2013 that reviews school arrest data and offers recommendations for interagency policies and diversion mechanisms, ways to reduce arrests through diversion to existing school and community-based programs, ways to reduce the over-representation of African-American youth in the county’s juvenile justice system, and specific criteria for diversion programs. H.B. 1338/Act No. 677, signed into law May 16, 2013; effective June 1, 2013.
  • Mississippi — Department of Justice Reaches Consent Decree with Mississippi School District that Violated Constitutional Rights of Youth: The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Meridian School District reached a consent decree regarding the district’s denial of substantive and procedural due process to youth through its over- and misuse of arrests and law enforcement intervention. According to the DOJ’s investigation, youth were arrested in school for minor infractions; police arrested youth in schools without investigating the offense at issue; judges rubber stamped cases, issuing detention orders without due process; youth did not receive adequate representation in court; and youth of color and students with disabilities were overwhelmingly affected by the constitutional violations. The consent decree requires the school district to establish safe and inclusive learning environments, provide supports and interventions before removing students from school, limit the removal of students from classrooms as a disciplinary measure, ensure that disciplinary consequences are fair and consistent, establish clear guidelines for law enforcement interventions, create a monitoring and accountability system using data, and train teachers and administrators with the tools to manage schools and classrooms safely and effectively. John Barnhardt, et al. and United States of America v. Meridian Municipal Separate School District, et al., Civil Action No. 4:65-cv-01300-HTW-LRA (S.D. Miss. March 22, 2013).
  • New Hampshire — Limits Placed on the Filing of Juvenile Delinquency Petitions by New Hampshire Schools: Under a new law, HB 433, New Hampshire schools are now required to try to resolve cases of student misbehavior through educational interventions before filing juvenile delinquency petitions, unless an incident presents a “serious threat to school safety,” such as acts involving weapons, controlled substances, sexual assault, or serious bodily injury. School officials—including school resource officers—must attempt to resolve behavioral problems through the school discipline process and engagement of the student’s parents or guardians. If these attempts fail, schools must include in their petition the efforts they have made and the reasons why court intervention is needed. The law includes additional procedural requirements when schools file petitions against youth with disabilities and IEPs (individualized education plans). H.B. 433/Act No. 2013-0198, signed into law July 9, 2013; effective January 1, 2014.
  • Virginia — Schools Gain Clear Authority to Handle Offenses Internally, without the Filing of a Petition: Virginia law now allows schools to handle school-based offenses through graduated sanctions or educational programming, rather than the filing of a delinquency petition. Prior law specified school-based offenses that had to be reported to law enforcement; an amendment clarifies that schools are not required to file petitions for all reportable offenses, thereby decreasing the number of school-based offenses handled by the court system. H.B. 1864/Act No. 800, signed into law May 3, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
  • Virginia Removes Non-Gun Weapons from Automatic Expulsion Statute: Prior to a new legislative change in Virginia, the state’s automatic expulsion statute defined “firearm” to mean guns as well as other weapons that are not guns, such as knives, razor blades, and slingshots. This forced schools to automatically expel any student who brought such an item to school. The law now restricts the definition of “firearm” to actual guns. H.B. 1866/Act No. 288, signed into law March 13, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
  • Virginia Law Clearly Defines Bullying in Order to Avoid Over-Criminalizing Youth: The Virginia General Assembly added a clear definition of bullying to its anti-bullying statute, in order to distinguish true bullying from ordinary peer conflict. Now, bullying is “any aggressive and unwanted behavior that is intended to harm, intimidate, or humiliate the victim; involves a real or perceived power imbalance between the aggressor or aggressors and victim; and is repeated over time or causes severe emotional trauma.” The definition specifically excludes ordinary teasing, horseplay, or arguments. The definition is written in a way that youth can understand, avoiding overly legalistic language, and is intended to be specific enough so that innocent behavior isn’t included. The change is an effort to avoid the overuse of zero tolerance policies and the over-criminalization of normal youth behavior. H.B. 1871/Act No. 575, signed into law March 20, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
  • Virginia Avoids Attempt to Increase Police in Schools: Despite the governor’s recommendations to his School and Campus Safety Task Force that the state spend an additional $33 million on school policing, security, and mental health, the task force did not endorse bills to place a school resource officer (SRO) in every Virginia school (including elementary schools). The final budget included only $1.3 million in new funding for SROs and a revolving fund for safety-related infrastructure improvements. Two bills that would have greatly increased sharing of juvenile law enforcement records (H.B. 2347 and H.B. 2344) were also scaled back.
  • Washington Reforms Exclusionary School Discipline Policies: The Washington State Legislature passed a law to reform school discipline policies that exclude youth from school. The law ends the use of indefinite, open-ended exclusions from school; requires emergency expulsions to automatically end or be converted to another corrective action within 10 school days; requires school districts to make reasonable efforts to assist students in returning to school, including convening re-engagement meetings with students and parents to plan for each student’s return; directs the collection of more robust discipline data that will be cross-tabulated, disaggregated, and made publicly available; and requires a discipline task force to develop standard definitions for discretionary disciplinary actions in order to help with data collection and to investigate the provision of educational services during any period of exclusion. S.B. 5946/Act No. 18, signed into law June 30, 2013; effective September 28, 2013.

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  • California Encourages Use of Alternative Means of Discipline in Order to Reduce Suspensions and Expulsions
    A new California law expands the authority of school administrators to use alternative means of discipline before suspending or expelling students, including students with disabilities. Stating an intention to reduce the overuse of suspension and expulsion, particularly of students of color, students with disabilities, LGBT youth, and other vulnerable populations, the law authorizes administrators to use alternatives that “are age-appropriate and designed to address and correct the student’s misbehavior.” Such alternatives include conferences with parents; referrals to a psychologist; enrollment in a restorative justice, anger management, or prosocial behavior program; referral for a comprehensive psychosocial or psychoeducational assessment; positive behavioral supports with tiered interventions during the school day; and after-school programs that address behavioral problems and/or expose students to positive activities. A.B. 1729/Act No. 425 , signed into law September 21, 2012; effective January 1, 2013.
  • California Limits Mandatory Expulsion
    A new California law changes the listed offenses for which a youth must be recommended for expulsion from school. Possession of over-the-counter or medication prescribed for the student is now exempt from provisions requiring automatic expulsion for possession of a controlled substance. Additionally, possession of an imitation firearm is no longer an automatic suspension or expulsion offense.  The law also authorizes a principal or superintendent to not recommend expulsion for listed offenses if he or she determines that an alternative means of correction would address the conduct. A.B. 2537/Act No. 431, signed into law September 21, 2012; effective January 1, 2013.
  • California Schools Prohibited from Denying Entry to Youth Involved in the Juvenile Justice System
    California amended its education code to prohibit a public school from denying enrollment or readmission to a student solely based upon contact with the juvenile justice system including, but not limited to: arrest, adjudication by juvenile court, formal or informal supervision by a probation officer, or detention for any length of time in a juvenile facility or enrollment in a juvenile court school. S.B. 1088/Act No. 381, signed into law September 19, 2012; effective January 1, 2013.
  • Colorado Eliminates Zero Tolerance and Mandatory Expulsions: An amendment to the Public School Finance Act eliminated zero tolerance policies and mandatory expulsions in Colorado. The amendment mandates that school discipline policies include interventions that reduce suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to the justice system and law enforcement, with a focus on prevention, intervention, restorative justice, peer mediation, or counseling. The law also establishes graduated sanctions for students who engage in disruptive behavior and mandates training for school resource officers. Schools and law enforcement agencies must collect data, including total school enrollment, average daily attendance rates, dropout rates, average class size, school bullying policies, and conduct and discipline code violations; the data is to be made available to the public upon request. H.B. 1345/Act No. 188, signed into law and effective May 19, 2012.
  • Delaware Schools Gain Discretion in Reporting Minor Offenses: Delaware updated its school code to give schools discretion to handle minor offenses without mandatory reporting to law enforcement (serious offenses must still be reported). Prior to the law, schools were required to report all offenses, no matter how minor. The law also requires that all relevant special education and disciplinary records for students with disabilities be sent to law enforcement to ensure informed charging decisions. H.B. 243/Act No. 404, signed into law and effective August 16, 2012.
  • Louisiana Law Helps Ensure Education of Youth in Juvenile Justice System: Louisiana now allows students who are expelled from school for offenses involving weapons or controlled substances to attend alternative education programs. Such students were previously excluded from these programs. Law also now requires the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to establish provisions for agreements between school authorities and education service providers that ensure the education of students who are adjudicated delinquent, adjudicated in need of service, placed in a juvenile facility, assigned to a community based-program, or suspended or expelled for weapons or controlled dangerous substance offenses. These rules and regulations must provide for academic, behavioral, and mental health interventions that focus on positive reinforcement, mentoring, experiential learning, employability, and success in the community. H.B. 1209/Act No. 831, signed into law and effective June 14, 2012.
  • Louisiana — Recovery School District Limits Expulsion of Youth: The Recovery School District revised its student code of conduct to limit the offenses for which students can be expelled. Under the new code, students may no longer be expelled for willful disobedience, uniform violations, or multiple suspensions for violations that are not classified as level three offenses. Expulsion is reserved for more serious or violent offenses. The district also revised its policy for appeals of expulsions in order to ensure due process for students and their families.
  • Mississippi Steps Up Dropout Prevention Efforts, Targets Youth Leaving Juvenile Detention: Mississippi amended its laws relating to the state Office of Dropout Prevention to require local school districts to develop dropout plans based on local needs that create measurable student-centered goals and objectives, target specific subgroups that need assistance meeting graduation requirements, and include dropout recovery initiatives for students ages 17 through 21 who have dropped out of school. Plans must specifically address students who are transitioning from juvenile detention centers back into their home districts. S.B. 2454/Act No. 461, signed into law April 23, 2012; effective July 1, 2012.
  • Rhode Island Prohibits Out-of-School Suspension for Truancy: The Rhode Island General Assembly passed legislation that prohibits schools from using a student’s truancy or absenteeism as the sole basis for an out-of-school suspension. As a result of the law, Rhode Island schools reported 27 percent fewer out-of-school suspensions during the 2012-2013 school year, as compared with the previous year. H.B. 7287, signed into law and effective May 30, 2012.

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  • Colorado — Legislature Limits Court Involvement in School Truancy Issues: Judicial proceedings to compel a youth to attend school in Colorado may only be used as a last resort for addressing the problem of truancy. To minimize the need for court action and the risk of detention, such proceedings are now allowed only after a school district has attempted other options for addressing truancy that employ best practices and research-based strategies. H.B. 1053/Ch. 58, signed into law and effective March 25, 2011.
  • Colorado  — Juvenile Justice Task Force to Collect Data on School Discipline Strategies: The Juvenile Justice Task Force of the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice must study and collect data on the use of criminal justice sanctions and specific school discipline strategies in Colorado public schools. In November 2011, the task force submitted a report to the Legislative Council discussing zero tolerance policies, alternative disciplinary measures, victims’ rights, school resource officers, and data sharing. The report recommends that the legislature pass a law limiting mandatory expulsion, discouraging referrals to law enforcement, implementing graduated sanctions, and increasing training for school resource officers. S.B. 133/Ch. 210, signed into law and effective May 23, 2011.
  • Connecticut — Connecticut Judicial Branch to Screen All Arrests for Minor Offenses in Schools: The Connecticut Judicial Branch now screens all police summonses for youth arrested for minor offenses in schools in order to determine whether the facts, if true, are sufficient to warrant a court referral and whether the interests of the public or the child require further action. Insufficient summonses will be sent back to police. The change in policy is due to research showing that contact with the juvenile justice system can have negative outcomes for youth who commit low-level offenses. The judicial branch seeks to reduce the number of arrests made in schools for behavior that could be dealt with by school staff. Specifically, probation supervisors will recommend no further court involvement for typical adolescent behavior, such as wearing a hat in school, talking back to staff, running in the halls, or swearing. Policy No. 74, June 15, 2011; effective June 1, 2011.
  • Connecticut — Schools to Address Truancy: State law in Connecticut now requires school districts to take additional measures to address truancy and to report annually on their truancy reduction activities. Schools must provide written notice to parents that unexcused absences could result in a complaint filed with the Superior Court. The legislation also requires the State Board of Education to adopt uniform definitions of excused and unexcused absences for districts to use in implementing required truancy policies and filing truancy data reports. H.B. 6499/Public Act 11-136, signed into law July 8, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
  • Kansas — Sedgwick County Develops Written Protocols and Services to Reduce School-Based Arrests: Sedgwick County, Kansas developed a written agreement between police and public schools to reduce schoolbased arrests for low-level offenses. The county first developed the agreement with alternative schools in January 2010, expanding the agreement to all Wichita Public Schools in August 2011. The agreement, along with other reforms to connect youth to services without making referrals to the juvenile justice system, helped reduce school-based arrests for disorderly conduct by 37 percent from 2009 to 2010.
  • Maryland — General Assembly Creates School Safety Task Force: The Maryland General Assembly created the School Safety Task Force in order to make recommendations on school safety training programs; creation of a positive school environment; school safety courses for school police officers; establishment of a clearinghouse for information and materials concerning school safety; and development of model agreements between local school systems, health departments, departments of social services, mental health agencies, and juvenile courts. H.B. 79/Ch. 551, signed into law May 19, 2011; effective June 1, 2011.
  • Mississippi — Unwarranted Expulsion Successfully Challenged in Court: The Hinds County School District was sued after a tenth grade student was expelled for throwing a penny that landed on the school bus driver. The lawsuit alleged that the overly harsh, inappropriate disciplinary consequence constituted a violation of the youth’s due process rights. Additionally, the lawsuit challenged the substandard education the youth received at the alternative school he attended after his expulsion. A.H. v. Hinds County School District, Case No. 3:10 cv 43 DPJ-FKB. Settled in spring 2011.
  • Texas — Legislature Limits School Ticketing: Schools in Texas are now prohibited from ticketing students ages 10-11 and 18-21 for failing to attend school. The law also requires schools to adopt truancy prevention measures in order to reduce truancy referrals to court. Lastly, courts are now required to expunge “failure to attend” convictions if the youth successfully complies with the court’s conditions and obtains a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate by age 21. An additional 2011 Texas law eliminated the practice of issuing tickets to youth in grades six and below for violation of the school discipline code. S.B. 1489 and H.B. 359, signed into law June 17, 2011; effective September 1, 2011.
  • Washington — Legislature Standardizes Definition of Unexcused Absence: Thanks in part to the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, and pursuant to legislative requirements, the Washington Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction developed a uniform definition of excused and unexcused absences to be used across the state. Prior to the standardization of the definition, schools allowed different numbers of unexcused absences prior to filing a petition in juvenile court. School districts are now required to report school absence data using the new definition. H.B. 1087/Ch. 50, signed into law and effective June 15, 2011.

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  • Delaware — Schools No Longer Required to Refer Students Between Ages Nine and Twelve to Police for Certain Misdemeanors: Based on recommendations from the School Discipline Task Force established by the legislature in 2009 (see above), school officials no longer have a mandatory obligation to report to the police specific misdemeanor offenses (Assault in the 3rd Degree, Unlawful Sexual Contact in the 3rd Degree, Offensive Touching and Terroristic Threatening) committed by students between the ages of nine and twelve. School officials must still file a written report of the incident with the superintendent, who must in turn file a written report with the Department of Education. H.B. 347/Ch. 468, signed into law August 25, 2010.
  • Indiana — Work Group to Study School Policing: The Indiana General Assembly created the Law Enforcement, School Policing, and Youth Work Group to study and make specific recommendations concerning law enforcement and school policing. The work group must submit an annual report, including recommendations on how law enforcement agencies can improve interactions with youth; how law enforcement agencies and schools can collaborate to reduce youth involvement in the juvenile justice system; use of security guards in schools; and zero tolerance policies. The legislation additionally requires schools to annually report to the state on student arrests; the use of school police departments and security guards; and whether schools have an agreement with a law enforcement agency concerning arresting
  • Kentucky — Department of Education Rules in Favor of Youth Challenging School-to-Prison Pipeline: In two significant administrative decisions, the Kentucky Department of Education ruled in favor of youth challenging illegal discipline practices and failures to provide students with services critical to their ability to remain in school and succeed. The two cases involved the Fayette County Public School System (2010) and the Bullitt County Public School System (2009). Following these decisions, the Bullitt County Public School System agreed to settle a second suit in favor of another group of petitioners and to rectify their claims. The settlement agreement mandates that the Bullitt County School District conduct reviews consistent with the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act to determine if a student’s misbehavior is a manifestation of his or her disability before charging the student with an offense in juvenile court or imposing school-based discipline; perform Functional Behavior Assessments on students who had persistent behavior difficulties; and evaluate students for special education services who had not previously been considered for such services when they exhibited difficulty in following school rules. The Fayette County Public School System subsequently challenged the decision of the Kentucky Department of Education in two lawsuits filed in Fayette Circuit Court, but the two circuit court judges dismissed the lawsuits.
  • Louisiana — State Commits to Improved Behavior and Discipline Plans in Schools: Legislation now requires Louisiana schools to develop master plans that provide for the training of teachers, principals, and other school personnel in the areas of positive behavioral supports, conflict resolution, mediation, cultural competence, restorative practices, guidance and discipline, and adolescent development. Public school boards must provide ongoing classroom management courses and regularly review discipline data from each school to determine what additional training is needed and what additional classroom support activities should be provided. The legislation is part of a larger movement in Louisiana to end the school-to-prison pipeline and improve discipline practices in schools. S.B. 527/Act 136, signed into law and effective June 8, 2010.
  • Maryland — Legislature Requires Cultural Competency Training for Police in Schools: The Maryland General Assembly enacted a “Cultural Competency Model Training Curriculum” law that requires the Maryland Police Training Commission to develop a cultural competency model training curriculum for law enforcement and school resource officers assigned to public schools. The goal of the training is to provide officers with resources and tools to reduce school arrests. H.B. 983/Ch. 371, signed into law May 4, 2010; effective July 1, 2010.
  • Wisconsin — Outagamie County Develops Strategies to Reduce School-Based Arrests: Working with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative, Outagamie County officials introduced two reforms aimed at reducing disorderly conduct arrests in the county’s public schools. The first involved collaborating with the Appleton Area School District in the implementation of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. PBIS equips school officials with a broad range of techniques to manage conflict on school grounds. The second—the Police-School Resource Program—aims to prevent youth from entering the juvenile justice system by linking them with services and supports that address disruptive behavior. The county also contracted for a full-time counselor who connects youth with those services—including social skills training, anger management, family counseling, on-site behavior support and intervention, and other wraparound services—without formally involving youth in the justice system. In the year after implementing those programs, disorderly conduct arrests fell almost 20 percent.
  • Wisconsin — Counties Develop Training for School Resource Officers: Wisconsin’s Rock, Kenosha, and Outagamie Counties worked with Fox Valley Technical College to create a curriculum for School Resource Officers (SROs). The curriculum—developed through the counties’ work with the MacArthur Foundation’s Models for Change initiative—aims to train SROs in alternatives to school-based arrest, and includes information on adolescent brain development, de-escalation techniques, over-criminalization of common youth behavior, the effects of an arrest in school, Motivational Interviewing, and other relevant topics. Training began in August 2010.

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  • Alabama — Birmingham City Schools Pass Progressive School Offense Protocol: A new school offense protocol, developed by the Birmingham City Schools Collaborative, is designed to reduce student arrests in schools and improve graduation rates by ensuring that minor student misbehavior is addressed in the schools, rather than in juvenile court. Studies have shown that a first-time arrest during high school nearly doubles the chances a student will drop out of school; a court appearance nearly quadruples the chances of a student dropping out. The protocol establishes a three-step process for handling minor infractions in school: a student’s first offense results in a warning notice from the school resource officer, the second offense results in a referral to the School Conflict Workshop program, and the third offense results in a referral to court. The Birmingham agreement is based on a similar agreement in Clayton County, Georgia. Since the Georgia agreement was signed in 2004, court referrals have been reduced by 60 percent and graduation rates have increased 20 percent. Adopted on October 13, 2009; effective January 1, 2010.
  • Connecticut — Legislature Acts to Stem School-to-Prison Pipeline: The Connecticut General Assembly acted on several fronts in 2009 to reduce school pushout. A new law states that if a student who committed an expellable offense seeks to return to school after having been in a juvenile facility or residential placement for one year or more, the district to which the student is returning must allow him or her to return, and may not expel the student for additional time for the original offense. The law prohibits schools from holding an expulsion in abeyance and then enforcing the expulsion when a student attempts to return after a year-long residential placement. H.B. 6567/Public Act 09-82, signed into law June 3, 2009; effective July 1, 2009. Starting July 1, 2010, a school must readmit within three days a student who dropped out if the student seeks readmission within 10 days of dropping out. Previously, schools were not required to readmit a student for up to 90 days. The same law also raises the age at which a child may drop out of school with parental/guardian consent from 16 to 17, effective July 1, 2011. S.B. 2053/Public Act 09-6, signed into law October 5, 2009. Lastly, school districts must add truancy data to the list of items reported to the State Department of Education. Such data is defined as attendance information and unexcused absences, and will be public record. S.S.B. 940/Public Act 09-143, signed into law June 25, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.
  • Delaware — Legislature Modifies and Investigates School Zero Tolerance Policies: The Delaware General Assembly passed a bill allowing school boards to modify the terms of expulsions, or to determine that an expulsion is not appropriate. The law recognizes that zero tolerance policies have led to “arbitrary and unfair” expulsions, and that such policies have not been found to improve school safety. H.B. 120/Ch. 64, signed into law and effective June 26, 2009. The legislature also established a school discipline task force in June of 2009 to investigate the state’s zero tolerance policy on school infractions and make recommendations on how to improve laws, regulations, and school district policies. The task force’s January 2010 report recommends that the Department of Education develop common legal definitions of student offenses leading to alternative placement, and common due process procedures for alternative placement meetings and expulsion hearings. The report also recommends that school districts develop plans to reduce discipline referrals and suspensions, and implement professional development training for teachers and school staff. H.R. 22, passed May 14, 2009.
  • Florida — Legislature Reins in Zero Tolerance Law: The Florida Legislature amended its zero tolerance law to allow for more discretion and discourage the overuse of police referrals. The legislation encourages schools to use alternatives to expulsion or referral to law enforcement by using programs such as restitution, civil citation, teen court, or neighborhood restorative justice to address disruptive behavior. The law also states that zero tolerance policies are not intended to “be rigorously applied to petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors.” Zero tolerance policies must now specifically define criteria for referral to law enforcement, acts that pose a serious threat to school safety, and petty acts of misconduct. S.B. 1540/Ch. 53, signed into law May 27, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.
  • Maryland —Schools May No Longer Suspend or Expel Students Solely Because of Attendance-Related Offenses: Maryland schools are now prohibited from suspending or expelling students based solely on attendance-related offenses. Attendance-related offenses include cutting class, tardiness, and truancy. The law includes an exception for in-school suspension. The legislation aims to keep youth in school and promote educational opportunity by addressing the underlying reasons for multiple absences. H.B. 660/Ch. 231, signed into law May 7, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.
  • Texas — Schools Must Consider Mitigating Factors Before Severely Disciplining Youth: A new law in Texas requires school districts to consider mitigating factors—such as self-defense, intent, a student’s disciplinary history, or any disability a student may have—before suspending, expelling, or assigning a student to a disciplinary alternative education program or a juvenile justice alternative education program, regardless of whether the disciplinary action was mandatory under the district’s code of conduct. The law will help ensure that students are not removed unnecessarily from the traditional learning environment, given the potential negative effects of inappropriate assignments to alternative education programs. H.B. 171, signed into law and effective June 19, 2009.
  • Virginia — Schools May Not Suspend Students for Truancy: Virginia public schools may no longer suspend students solely based on truancy issues. Prior to the legislative change, over 15,000 students were suspended each year for being tardy or truant. H.B. 1794/Ch. 70, signed into law February 25, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.
  • Washington — Legislature Reforms Truancy Procedures: The Washington State Legislature made several changes to the state’s truancy practices and procedures. The law states that if a student or parent is not fluent in English, the school should provide a notice of unexcused absence or notice of truancy hearing in a language in which the parent(s) or guardian is fluent. If the student is in a special education program or has a diagnosed mental disorder, the court must inquire as to what efforts the school district has made to assist the youth in attending school. If a youth is not provided with counsel at a truancy hearing, the court must conduct a colloquy on the record advising the youth and his or her parents of their rights before entering a truancy order. An arrest warrant relating to truancy must not be served on a student inside a school during school hours in a place where other students are present. Detention as a sanction for truancy must be limited to seven days. Lastly, the legislature encourages the use of community truancy boards and other diversion programs that are effective in promoting school attendance and preventing the need for more intrusive court intervention. S.B. 5881/Ch. 266, signed into law April 28, 2009; effective July 26, 2009.

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