Arrested Futures

Spring 2012

Students in Massachusetts are being handcuffed, booked, and sent to court for behavior once handled by schools and parents, including swearing, slamming doors or banging lockers, failing to follow directions, or being disruptive in hallways, according to a groundbreaking report by Citizens for Juvenile Justice in partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts and the  Racial Justice Program of the ACLU's National Legal Department.  
The report,  Arrested Futures: The Criminalization of School Discipline in Massachusetts's Three Largest School Districts, examines school-based arrests in Massachusetts' three largest school districts - Boston, Springfield and Worcester - and evaluates which students are being arrested and why. The report finds that in all three districts, arrests for disruptive but otherwise relatively minor misbehavior made up the majority or a substantial percentage of all school-based arrests.
Other major findings of the report include:

  • Springfield had the highest rate of arrests per 1000 students: three times higher than Boston and more than four times higher than Worcester;
  • African-American students and students with disabilities were more likely to be arrested and to be arrested for disruptive behavior than other students;
  • In Boston and Springfield, the highest arrest rates (up to 10 times the district-wide rate) were in schools purportedly designed to deal with children who have behavioral or emotional problems, or learning disabilities;
  • In all three districts, children as young as 11 or 12 were subject to arrest, often as the result of childish outbursts. In one case, an upset 11-year old was charged with assault and battery on a public employee, disorderly conduct, and disturbing a lawful assembly after he left his classroom, ran outside the school building, and threw a snowball at a teacher;
  • Schools with permanent, on-site police officers had higher arrest rates.
  • The report notes that arresting kids for minor disciplinary matters can result in a lifetime of devastating consequences, such as school dropout, deeper involvement in the criminal justice system, and reduced future employment prospects.

These findings are an important addition to existing research examining the "school-to-prison pipeline," showing that students are being frequently arrested for minor, disruptive behavior that could be better addressed by school administrators, particularly in school districts that rely heavily on police officers in their schools.

For a copy of the complete report, click HERE

For a copy of the press release, click HERE.

For local, state and national press coverage on Arrested Futures, click HERE