There are a lot of questions being asked in the wake of the school shooting in Florida. One question being asked about school district discipline policies is starting to gain traction.
The so-called “school to prison pipeline” as it relates to changes in school discipline and how school resource officers (SROs) has garnered the attention of many.
We’ve all heard by now. Not just the one Broward County Sheriff School Resource Officer sat outside and did nothing, but three others joined him.
We also know that Nikolas Cruz, the shooter, had been on the radar of the Sheriff’s department and the FBI. There were at least 45 interactions with the Sheriff’s department and two tips to the FBI.
Broward County sheriff’s officials said in a statement late Saturday that they responded only to 23 calls involving suspected Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz or his family over the years, but records obtained by BuzzFeed News show at least 45 responses since 2008.
This has prompted outrage and a flood of questions.
One could be an act of cowardice, but four? Were they told to stand down? Were they trained to wait for local police?
Why didn’t any of them act? Maybe they were told not to.
It’s also been learned that the SRO Marjory Stoneman High who did not engage Cruz, Scot Peterson, refused to share what he knew about Cruz in the year prior when the Department of Child and Family Services showed up to assess him. WHY?
Cruz was expelled but it likely took a hell of a lot of incidents for that to take place given what we now know about an agreement between the Broward school district and the local sheriff department.
The long and short of that thread is that there was an agreement put into place which had the effect of neutering actions that could be taken against problem students – all in the name of lowering suspension and arrest rates of students.
This is not unique to Broward. Parents should be actively looking for this type of intervention in their own local districts – everywhere.
The MOU references the “Eliminating the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Committee” and states that the Florida Legislature should seek alternative methods to dealing with violent or otherwise problem-related students.
The Florida Legislature “encourage[s] schools to use alternatives to expulsion or referral to law enforcement agencies by addressing disruptive behavior through restitution, civil citation, teen court, neighborhood restorative justice, or similar programs” and has instructed school districts “that zero -tolerance policies are not intended to be rigorously applied to petty acts of misconduct and misdemeanors, including, but not limited to, minor fights or disturbances.”
In short, kids were supposed to be let off the hook with a slap on the wrist.
Also in the MOU, in section 2.05, actions by law enforcement are addressed. The MOU says that “Nothing in this agreement is intended to limit the discretion of law enforcement.”
That section goes on to say “Officers responding to an incident or consulting with school officials are encouraged to use their discretion in determining the best course of action, especially when using alternatives to arrest.”
The section concludes in a manner indicating that officer use discretion really isn’t theirs to use, stating that “While the option to use the criminal justice system is available for many incidents, the totality of the circumstances should be taken into consideration any less punitive alternatives that ensure the safety of the school community should be considered.”
This agreement and the Broward school district’s policy changes began to change back in 2013.
Activists in the state, like in many other states, began protesting at school board meetings and at their respective legislatures about the “school to prison pipeline.” The complaint was that black students were making up the majority of suspensions, arrests, and expulsions.
At no time have I witnessed any board confronted with this information ask the question are these actions warranted? This observation includes districts in North Carolina like Wake County and Charlotte Mecklenburg.
Nearly all of the groups I have looked at in over 12 states were either affiliated with or were tied to local chapters of the NAACP. Such was the case in Broward County and it was done so with the aid of “a local sheriff.”
Broward announced broad changes designed to mitigate the use of harsh punishments for minor misbehavior at the beginning of this school year. While other districts have amended their discipline codes, prohibited arrests in some circumstances, and developed alternatives to suspension, Broward was able to do all these things at once with the cooperation of a group that included a member of the local NAACP, a school board member, a public defender, a local sheriff, a state prosecutor, and several others. (Source: Prospect.org)
One must also note that the NAACP was not alone. These campaigns worked in tandem with the Advancement Project, the Southern Poverty Law Center and later, the Department of Justice under Eric Holder.
As a point of fact, Eric Holder and the DOJ often co-hosted “school to prison pipeline” events with the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The SPLC used its education propaganda machine, Teaching Tolerance, to legitimize the issue and made the focus “the deep south” despite accounts that minority arrests and suspensions were worse in northern states.
Teaching Tolerance also created materials for teachers to replace usual disciplinary actions using a fictitious student named Michael. Ironically, these materials call for the teacher to “Argue with Michael, call the school resource officer, bar him from class or press assault charges” if Michael gets physical.
Yet, at the same time, activist groups, the SPLC, the Advancement Project, and the NAACP had been pushing or SROs to be removed from schools and encouraging school boards and sheriff departments not to arrest or charge students who act out violently.
Black Lives Matter Chapters also got in on the act, pushing the “SRO’s have got to go” campaign and local state activist groups began campaigns in 2014 and 2015 to remove SRO’s from schools. This type of campaign happened in North Carolina’s largest district, Wake County Public Schools.
The primary groups that were involved in the push in Wake County: The Education Justice Alliance, the NC NAACP, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children (CCCAAC), Dignity in Schools, NC Heat, and the Youth Organizing Institute.
Education Justice Alliance, NC Heat, and Youth Organizing Institute are overlapping groups affiliated with one another. NC Heat and Youth Organizing Institute are projects of the Southern Vision Alliance which in turn is an offshoot of Action for Community in Raleigh (ACRe). Members of these NC Heat and Youth Organizing Institute have been involved with Black Lives Matter in Durham and the destruction of a Confederate statue in Durham in 2017.
Education Justice Alliance (EJA) also has ties to the NC Justice Center; EJA’s leader is Rukiya Dillahunt, spouse of self-described Socialist, Ajamu Dillahunt who is a former employee of the NC Justice Center – a far-left advocacy group and parent to the radical attack dog group Blueprint NC.
Timeline of School To Prison Pipeline Nationally & In NC
Multiple groups, including NC Heat, file a complaint with the Department of Justice complaining that Wake County Sheriff departments are being used to address “minor school discipline problems.” The complaint seems to want 16 and 17 year-olds to be treated as juveniles for criminal or violent offenses.
Around that same time in January 2014, Attorney General Eric Holder had gotten in on the act and was openly making remarks about “zero tolerance policies” being the root cause of criminal charges made on students.
The U.S. Department of Education, led by Arne Duncan, entered into a partnership with Holder’s DOJ to introduce a “School Discipline Guidance Package” based on joint issued Dear Colleague Letter issued by Catherine Lhamon ( head of USED Civil Rights) and Jocelyn Samuels (head of DOJ Civil Rights). This started the ball rolling in Education departments in the states.
The Coalition of Concerned Citizens for African-American Children (CCCAAC) kicks things off by complaining to the Wake County School Board that giving students (specifically minority students) a zero for missed assignments was “too punitive.” The proposal to drop that practice is dismissed by the board.
The Guilford County School district spends $357,448.60 on an “African-American Males Symposium” which deals mainly with African American male students are receiving a disproportionate number of out-of-school suspensions.
Wake County School Board enters the mix. School Board Member Jim Martin defends the high suspension rate in Wake County Schools on Facebook. “I encourage everyone who cares about this issue to recognize there is not a school-to-prison pipeline,” Martin wrote. “There is a POVERTY-TO-PRISON pipeline.
The US DOJ begins disseminating the Smith/Harper report which conveniently aligns its conclusions with those of Arne Duncan and Eric Holder from the year prior by blaming Zero Tolerance policies for the “School to Prison Pipeline.” The report includes involvement by the US Dept. of Education, the NAACP and Teach for America.
The Youth Organizing Institute (YOI) puts on a protest march, beginning at a Raleigh Elementary school and ending at Central Prison. The protesters specifically call for the removal of SRO’s from schools. The prior year, the group, along with the Education Justice Alliance’s NC HEAT, also protested at the Wake County School Board meeting wearing the orange prisoner jumpers below.
The previous month, the owner of the YOI’s website, Angeline Echeverria, was one of six arrested for chaining themselves together using PVC pipe in the middle of a Raleigh intersection adjacent to the Governor’s mansion. The group was protesting for the ‘rights of illegal aliens’. Echeveria is also a staffer at El Pueblo.
Also in November, there was a rash of fights in Wake County schools caught on video and spread on social media. These incidences were followed, ironically, by more calls to remove SRO’s from schools by the aforementioned activist groups. These reports of fights continued in a steady stream through February 2016.
The Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA) is passed. President Obama would later sign it.
ESSA codified the earlier discipline guidance by the Department of Education and the DOJ.
A violent assault committed by a black female student on another in Wake County Schools makes national headlines. 18-year-old Amber Monay Romero bit off part of a large portion the earlobe of 16-year-old Emiyah Lane Brown.
Wake County Public Schools ‘Director of Equity Affairs’ holds a joint “Discipline Forum” with federal officials from the Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division.
Wake County Public Schools alters its discipline and suspension policy. The policy is changed on how suspensions are to be handled for minor rule breaking and additional wording was put in encouraging the use of ‘alternatives’ to out-of-school suspensions. The changes are very similar to the Broward MOU.
The stated goal is to “reduce the number of suspensions” and Wake Board member Jim Martin told media that “We want to minimize infractions and maximize education.”
Brenda Elliott, the Wake assistant superintendent for student support, chimed in.
“Research says that increasing lengths of suspension aren’t related to school safety at all,” said Elliott. “There are other things that schools do to help feel students feel safe. The key thing is to provide a nurturing classroom.”
Changes were also made to the due process policy. Students would now be assigned to an ‘alternative placement’ instead of a long-term suspension. These students would be eligible to participate in SCORE, an online program.
The biggest takeaway from the change to due process policy is that these kids would not be recorded by the district as having had a long-term suspension at all. In other words, kids that maybe should be suspended now are not and the district’s crime and suspension numbers look rosy.
That same month, the Obama administration orders colleges and universities to stop checking criminal histories of applicants – because it’s allegedly discriminatory.
Feds Order Colleges to Stop Checking Criminal/School Discipline History Because it Discriminates Against Minoritieshttps://t.co/Lu0hUCETC4
— Judicial Watch 🔎 (@JudicialWatch) May 21, 2016
The impact of various school districts altering discipline programs shows mixed results in the NC Department of Public Instruction’s annual School Crime Report.
The districts with the highest reportable crime numbers were also the districts with the largest student populations. Charlotte-Mecklenburg had 624 crimes with a student population of 40,675Wake had 562 with a student population of 45,134.
That report included two rather alarming statistics – 78 bomb threats and 86 reports of a firearm or “powerful explosive.” The majority of these reports were at the high school level.
Activists continue to hammer Wake County School Board, this time with renewed focus: the removal of School Resource Officers. If you guessed Youth Organizing Institute, you would be correct.
“Police are much more likely to be sexual and physical predators of youth in schools than are any young people that you might find in schools,” said YOI’s Qasima Wideman to the Wake County school board.
“There are countless young people, young women, of color who can attest to the fact that, um, that police ” police attack us,” Wideman alleged.
One of the other YOI members even claimed (falsely) that ‘military weapons‘ were in our schools.
Watch Wideman’s whole set of remarks below. Transcript here.
Juxtapose this video from this one taken just months earlier at a Black Lives Matter event in Durham.
Flash Forward to 2018
The lip service has begun: Wake school board talks school-safety changes after Parkland.
After looking through proposed building plans for future schools in Wake County, as well as schematics of schools built in the last 5 years, it appeared that secured entries were missing from all of them.
The Wake school board has spent tens of millions on new construction while ignoring schools already built. One would be hard-pressed to fund an elementary school in the county that does not have a significant number of students taking their classes in unsecured trailers.
If the Wake school board is looking for a place to start – they should look at these trailers, which provide the ultimate example of a soft target.
- Armed local law enforcement officer assigned to each of the county’s K-12 schools
- Allow for teachers interested to complete a conceal carry course and allow for campus carry
- Reinforced front entry areas. The ability for someone in a vehicle to ram the front of our schools or enter a playground area of most elementary schools is largely unfettered.
- Campus security systems, including cameras and panic buttons in all classrooms and central hallways and gathering locations. If Wake can put cameras on all buses, they can put them in all schools.
Why Did the US Depts of Justice and Education Craft Policies Dictating Local/State Policies? – Missouri Education Watchdog