(April 18, 2016) Attorney and advocate Juliet Hiznay joins host Catherine Read for a discussion on Virginia’s status as #1 in the nation for juveniles referred to the criminal justice system. What has happened over the last several decades to bring us to a point where children as young as 8 are being charged with crimes? Juliet Hiznay describes it as “criminalizing childhood behaviors” which in our own youths were behaviors simple dealt with in an age appropriate way by school staff, administrators and our parents. Schools are increasingly turning to school resource officers and law enforcement personnel to “police” student behavior.
Data on who these students are include the unsurprising fact that race, disability and those with mental health issues are disproportionately represented in this population. Solutions must include better policies from the legislature as well as a change in school culture. The school climate varies dramatically from one county and one individual school to another. Some schools have created a safe climate without over reliance on law enforcement while other schools have disproportionately high incidents of student referrals into the criminal justice system. This issue is not on the radar of most communities in Virginia and it needs to be addressed by those in the public who see the long term danger and impact of this “school to prison pipeline.”