Thousands of Florida Students Arrested Annually for Actions that Used to Merit a Trip to the Principal’s Office

Wednesday, February 13, 2013
(photo: Schmalz, AP)

Florida continues to arrest thousands of students each year for minor violations not deemed criminal acts.


Of the 12,000 students taken from school to jail by police in 2012, 67% were accused of misdemeanors, such as disorderly conduct. Oftentimes, disorderly conduct amounts to little more than a student disobeying a teacher’s order to put away a cell phone or stop talking in class.


Wansley Walters, secretary of the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice, told the Orlando Sentinel that most arrests stemmed from “bad behavior, not criminal behavior.”


“The vast majority of children being arrested in schools are not committing criminal acts,” Walters added. He pointed out that these arrests pull students out of school and inject them into the criminal justice system, which usually results in making their behavior worse and prevents them from getting counseling.


It was also found that African-American and disabled students were arrested disproportionately in number.


Walters said his agency is committed to reducing the number of students arrested this year by 10%. The total number of arrests has been going down since the state first implemented its “zero tolerance” policy. In 2005, for example, 28,000 students were sent to jail.


“We criminalize them for being kids,” observed Southern Poverty Law Center attorney Stephanie Langer. The students’ arrest records will remain with them for life, even if the charges are dropped.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Thousands of Student Arrests Alarm Florida Justice Leaders (by Leslie Postal, Orlando Sentinel)

Charts Showing Student Arrest Statistics in Central Florida (Orlando Sentinel)

One Third of Young Americans Arrested by Age 23…Is Drug Crackdown to Blame? (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Kentucky Supreme Court Case Questions whether Students Deserve the Right to Remain Silent (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Black Students More Likely to be Punished for Same Infractions as White Students (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

Police Not Allowed to Arrest People for being Annoying (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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