GOSHEN — Far from removing class disruptions, criminalizing what used to be seen as normal teenage rebellion only hurts school graduation rates, a Georgia judge told juvenile justice professionals Friday.
Steven Teske, chief judge of the Clayton County, Ga., juvenile court, shared the success his county on Atlanta's south side has had since forming a partnership between schools, law enforcement and the courts in 2003 that finds alternatives to arrests in schools. He spoke at the ninth annual Elkhart Juvenile Summit, attended by over 400 people involved in juvenile justice from court-appointed special advocates to judges.
Teske said his county found that arrest rates skyrocketed after school resource officers became regular fixtures on campus and normal rulebreaking or delinquent offenses were ending with kids in handcuffs and courtrooms. Graduation rates fell to a historic low of 58 percent, as even the best students became apprehensive about going to school in such an environment.
He didn't place the blame on the schools or officers themselves, but on a system that failed to recognize that kids are "neurologically wired to do stupid things" because their ability to filter emotions into logical responses isn't fully developed.
"The best people working in a broken system will make broken decisions," he said.