School Arrests Bring New Scrutiny, Reforms

Hundreds of children in Connecticut schools are being arrested for behavior that, in an earlier time, most likely led to them being sent to the principal’s office.

A story by the Connecticut Health Investigative Team — at — reports that data collected by the state’s judicial department show that more than 700 arrests were made from March through May 2011, more than two-thirds of which were for minor offenses such as breach of peace.

Overwhelmingly, arrests are made in inner-city or overcrowded schools. Or, as Abby Anderson, director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, explains, “If you look at how kids get in trouble, it makes sense: They get in trouble as a group—especially in overcrowded, under-resourced schools.”

The Juvenile Justice Alliance is trying to reduce school-based arrests, and pilot programs are in place in Manchester, Stamford and Williamantic.

Because of local control, Anderson said, there is no statewide policy on disciplinary rules, so problems vary widely from school to school.  “In some schools,” Anderson said, “administrators have essentially abdicated all disciplinary actions to the police. In others, they handle all but the really serious incidents themselves…”

The C-HIT report includes a chart of some of the schools with higher numbers of student arrests.