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The Parkland Shooter and the "School-to-Prison-Pipeline"

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Many people in America today are concerned about the effects on society of the sanctions imposed for misconduct over the whole range from petty offenses to mass murder.  One of the most widespread and misguided notions in the country is that we should deal with the problem simply by watering down the sanctions rather than taking measures that will actually reduce the number of instances of misconduct.

We often hear about the "school-to-prison pipeline," and the people expressing concern about this often advocate weak responses to serious offenses by students.  Max Eden writes in the City Journal that one recipient of this misguided leniency was the notorious school shooter in Parkland, Florida.
In the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, political debate has focused almost exclusively on the role of guns in American society. Largely ignored is the question of what role Broward County's overhauled approach to school safety played in the total system failure leading up to the massacre, in which authorities took no action on repeated warnings about the eventual shooter.  

In an effort to combat the "school to prison pipeline," schools across the country have come under pressure from the federal government and civil rights activists to reduce suspensions, expulsions, and in-school arrests. The unintended consequences of pressuring schools to produce ever-lower discipline statistics deserve much more examination.  

Florida's Broward County, home to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, was among the leaders in this nationwide policy shift. According to Washington Post reporting, Broward County schools once recorded more in-school arrests than any other Florida district. But in 2013, the school board and the sheriff's office agreed on a new policy to discontinue police referrals for a dozen infractions ranging from drug use to assault. The number of school-based arrests plummeted by 63 percent from 2012 to 2016. The Obama administration lauded Broward's reforms, and in 2015 invited the district's superintendent to the White House for an event, "Rethink Discipline," that would highlight the success of Broward and other localities' success in "transforming policies and school climate."

Confessed killer Nikolas Cruz, a notorious and emotionally disturbed student, was suspended from Stoneman Douglas High. He was even expelled for bringing weapons to school. Yet he was never arrested before the shooting. In a county less devoted to undoing school disciplinary policies, perhaps Cruz would have been arrested for one of his many violent or threatening incidents. When Cruz got into a fight in September of 2016, he was referred to social workers rather than to the police. When he allegedly assaulted a student in January 2017, it triggered a school-based threat assessment--but no police involvement. The Washington Post notes that Cruz "was well-known to school and mental health authorities and was entrenched in the process for getting students help rather than referring them to law enforcement."

2 Comments

Start with unthinking "compassion;" season with two dozen platitudes that "Their brains are still forming!"; add one large portion of self-serving desire in a politically correct police department to improve its crime statistics (of course without improving actual behavior); bake for a few years in overheated race huckstering. Result = busier morgue.

There were valid educational and public safety reasons to arrest students who engaged in violent activity in schools until the agenda-driven Obama/Holder administration came along.

Nikolas Cruz is the embodiment of this failed, insidious policy. Moreover, I don't think he will be the last .

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