Louisiana representative introduces legislation to derail youth incarceration

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Friday, September 20, 2013 - 12:49pm

U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond (D-LA) introduced the Student Disciplinary Fairness Act of 2013, in an effort to curb the saddening trend of youth incarceration due to schools’ over reliance on law enforcement to address misbehavior in the classroom.

“There are jurisdictions and schools all across the country that actually criminalize minor behavioral infractions. It is absolutely troubling to learn that violating a school’s dress code or talking back to a teacher are included among the instances that have resulted in a student being arrested,” said Congressman Richmond. “Instead of serving in-school detention or doing extra homework, teachers and schools are hastily referring kids to the criminal justice system, kids who have not actually committed any kind of crime. This is an obscene disciplinary approach and actually turns a student with minor behavior problems into a juvenile offender, a stigma that is extremely difficult to erase. The Student Disciplinary Fairness Act of 2013 aims to create practical tools that states, local governments and law enforcement officials can use to reform and reverse this devastating trend.”

The Student Disciplinary Fairness Act of 2013:

• Establishes an office at the Department of Justice to monitor developments related to egregious school disciplinary practices to reduce the number of juveniles that end up in jail for activity that takes place in a school setting and promote alternatives to detention for students by working with local and federal stakeholders.

• Authorizes the Attorney General to access relevant juvenile justice records in the course of investigations into constitutional violations in how juvenile justice is administered and enforced.

• Authorizes a grant program for states and subdivisions to invest in reforming their policies and procedures. Applicants to this grant program will be given credit for taking initial steps to reform their juvenile justice measures.

• Authorizes the Department of Justice to conduct data collection and encourages the agency to work more closely with the Office of Civil Rights at the Department of Education to ensure that up-to-date data on this issue is compiled and made available to the public.

• Changes current laws to ensure that applicants for Community Oriented Policing Services Grants (COPS) grant funding take the necessary steps to reform their juvenile justice systems if they are not compliant with the 4th, 5th and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution, including assurances that probable cause is determined before student arrests, that procedural due process protections are upheld and that any existing probation contracts do not contain clauses that result in incarceration due to probation violations resulting from minor school based rules violations. 

• Provides a funding stream for schools to help build the capacity of teachers and other personnel to implement prevention and mitigation strategies to ensure that minor disciplinary issues do not devolve into criminal justice issues. Only jurisdictions that are compliant with data requests from the DOE Office of Civil Rights will be eligible to apply for funds.


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