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Breaking Florida's school-to-jail pipeline: Alternative approaches to student discipline and punishment

Sep 15, 2010

from the article by the Collins Center for Public Policy:

Low graduation rates and a rising incarceration rate in Florida have led to calls for alternatives to the harsh punishments and criminalization of student misbehavior often practiced by school districts. One alternative being practiced by the Escambia County School District offers a non-traditional way in dealing with day-to-day rule violations and disruptive behavior in schools. The Escambia County Alternatives to Zero-tolerance Program engages students, victims, the wider school community and the neighborhood in repairing the harm caused by an offense. Students who break the rules and disrupt the educational process are given a chance to avoid suspension or expulsion by entering the program.

A student's acceptance of responsibility is a cornerstone of the program. He or she appears before a trained board that reviews the incident and decides on sanctions. School Accountability Boards (SABs) involve the students, their parents or guardians, victims and others affected by the incident, along with representatives from the community and the school.

SAB meetings allow the victims and the school community to address the harmful behavior and participate in defining the repair necessary to right the wrong. Students pledge to address the impact of their actions on those directly and indirectly involved. For instance, a child who defaces school property with graffiti may be required to remove it and participate in school beautification tasks.

The program avoids criminalizing student misbehavior and keeps kids from entering the criminal justice system while making certain they understand the consequences of their actions.

Read the whole article.

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