The United States is not just the number one jailer in the world. It also incarcerates juveniles at a rate that eclipses every other country. Evidence has long been building that schools use the correctional system as a misplaced mechanism for discipline, with children being sent to detention facilities for offenses as minor as wearing the wrong color socks to school. A juvenile county chief judge testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday that these are not isolated incidents, but rather systemic trends that bombard prosecutors and courts with a glut of cases in which kids pose no danger but merely ‘make adults mad”:
When I took the bench in 1999, I was shocked to find that approximately one-third of the cases in my courtroom were school-related, of which most were low risk misdemeanor offenses. Upon reviewing our data, the increase in school arrests did not begin until after police were placed on our middle and high school campuses in 1996-well before the horrific shootings at Columbine High School. The year before campus police, my court received only 49 school referrals. By 2004, the referrals increased over 1,000 percent to 1,400 referrals, of which 92% were misdemeanors mostly involving school fights, disorderly conduct, and disrupting public school.