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Some Common Sense Limits on Arresting School Kids

| October 5, 2011

Connecticut is taking the first step towards reducing the number of needless police interventions in its public schools. According to this story, probation supervisors will now conduct reviews of police summonses given to public school children for minor misbehavior.

Under the change in the law, a status offense charged against a juvenile, such as truancy or defiance of school rules, will now be reviewed to determine whether or not it sufficiently constitutes a juvenile matter, and whether further action is in the best interests of either the public or the child. If not, the summons will be rejected and the child’s parents will be notified.

This reform in Connecticut’s juvenile justice system is a necessary change to achieve cost-efficient and effective justice. Arresting school kids for conduct that does not rise to level of criminality wastes court resources and negatively affects a child’s future by forcing him or her to carry a criminal record with them for what used to be mere misbehavior.

It is worth noting that public safety is still an important consideration. The change in Connecticut law includes a list of offenses and standards under which the reviewing probation supervisor cannot reject the police summons.

As the Council on State Governments Justice Center recently uncovered, Texas is also afflicted with the overuse of criminal sanctions in public schools. Every jurisdiction which currently criminalizes minor misbehavior should observe Connecticut’s leadership and consider emulating its practices.

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