The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut joined the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance, Center for Children’s Advocacy and Voices for Children to testify in support of mandating clear guidelines for police officers assigned to schools. This coalition of groups argued for data and analysis of school-based arrests to help reduce criminalization of typical student behavior and to cut unfair racial disparities in arrests.

The legislature is considering two bills—House Bill 6834 and Raised Bill 6837—that would require memoranda of understanding establishing procedures to create a graduated response model to distinguish what should be handled by police versus education officials.

Sandra Staub, legal director for ACLU-CT told the General Assembly’s Education Committee, “The ACLU of Connecticut has long been concerned about the criminalization of typical student misbehavior, and our concern has grown as more police officers have been assigned to patrol schools. Many students in our state have been arrested at school for behaviors that were not criminal—such as skipping class, insubordination and swearing.”

A September 2013 report by Connecticut Voices for Children found that many students in our state have been arrested at school for behaviors that were not criminal—such as skipping class, insubordination and swearing.

ACLU-CT revealed in its 2008 study, Hard Lessons: School Resource Officer Programs and School-Based Arrests in Three Connecticut Towns, that the rate of arrest for students of color was alarmingly higher than the rate of arrest for white students.

After the school systems in Hartford and Bridgeport adopted memoranda of understanding with police, there were reductions of 44 percent and 31 percent, respectively, in school-based arrests, according to the Center for Children’s Advocacy.

The bills are due to be voted on before the end of March.

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