Racial disparity feeds ills in juvenile justice

September 29, 2010

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NORTHEASTERN UNIVERSITY’S comprehensive study (“Area school segregation called rife,’’ Page A1, Sept. 20) demonstrates that race still determines how and where children are educated, and ranks Springfield and Boston public schools among the most segregated in the country. While whites are concentrated in suburban districts with more resources, minority children are often consigned to schools that are low performers by every standard from test scores to graduation rates.

The racial disparity in schools feeds the racial disparity in our juvenile justice system. Arrests have become an all too common discipline tool in schools, particularly in high poverty districts, where there is greater police presence on school grounds. About 40 percent of Springfield’s juvenile arrests, for example, happen in the public schools. The high concentration of African-American and Latino children in these schools means that most of the children arrested there will be members of minorities.

Ironically, juvenile crime and youth violence have been falling for more than a decade. Yet arrests in school have become increasingly common, usually for minor, nonviolent offenses. Kids aren’t behaving worse. Adults have simply become more extreme in their response.

School segregation and school arrests are each the result of adult decisions. We grown-ups must stop making minority kids pay for our poor choices.

Lael Chester
Executive director
Citizens for Juvenile Justice

Robin Dahlberg
Senior staff attorney
New York

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