Should a Spitball Be a Misdemeanor? Broward County, Fla. Schools Say No More

Broward County, Florida, has the highest arrest rate in the state for youth in schools. But it's vowing to do better.

By Julianne Hing Nov 06, 2013

Last year Florida’s Broward County made over 1,000 school-based arrests. But Broward County school officials, together with law enforcement and civil rights advocacy groups like the NAACP and the Advancement Project, are vowing to do better, and in doing so to get rid of their top spot producing the highest number of school-based arrests in the state. This week the county and its community partners announced a groundbreaking collaborative discipline agreement with the aims of increasing school safety by reducing the number of youth who are arrested and introduced to the criminal justice system. 

According to the Sun Sentinel, Broward County kids were being arrested for things like showing up to school even though they were on suspension (considered trespassing), or throwing a spitball (considered misdemeanor battery) or tossing a lollipop at another student (battery). Six-seven percent of arrests fell under the umbrella category of "disorderly conduct," which could include behavior like taking out a cellphone in class or using profanity toward a teacher. All of this eager arresting of students gave Broward County the distinction of producing the highest total number of school-based arrests in the state in 2011-2012.

With the new agreement, nonviolent offenses–even those which include drugs or alcohol–will be handled in school without the involvement of police. It’s an important step in a county which, like elsewhere in the nation, has disproportionately punished black and Latino students with its school discipline policies, pushing many of them into the arms of the criminal justice system and further from school. 

Read more at the Sun Sentinel.