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BackwardsIt’s back. Again. Our old friend, the pendulum.

How many stories and reports have we heard the past few years about miscreant parents whose “rights” have been coddled and protected by social services only to see one tragic childhood death after another? One is one too many. More in the face of lessons not learned is beyond words.

Too bad the system is not as sensitive to the rights of our children. I find myself often at odds with the ACLU, the American Civil Liberties Union, but this time they’ve got it spot on.

In a report released a week ago, the ACLU analyzed law enforcement policies of 119 California school districts and found that more than half the districts — large and small — gave their staff broad, unsupervised discretion to summon police officers into schools for minor infractions, disrupting lessons, low level vandalism and graffiti, one child verbally bullying another.

According to the report, many California school districts offer their staff little or no guidance on when police should be summoned to control student behavior. Worse still, after the police are called in, many districts do little to shield their students from potential adverse consequences. Parents are seldom notified before a student is interviewed by police and, absent a formal arrest, police are generally not required to advise students of their constitutional rights, including the right to remain silent.

When historically routine in-school discipline is outsourced to police officers, the data suggests that the effects are disproportionately harsh for poor, minority and disabled students who are more often arrested and required to go to court than their peers.

In contrast, absent physical abuse or immediate threat of physical injury, shouldn’t school districts be required to develop internal procedures to handle such misbehavior and low-grade offenses without creating a “criminal” record that may plague a youngster for years to come? Credit the Los Angeles Unified School District for its policy requiring police officers to obtain a court order before removing or questioning a student.

Seems like we have this upside down, turned around, worrying more about the grown-ups, parents and school administrators alike, than our kids.


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