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New Bill Sparks Civil Rights Debate on Criminalization of Youth

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A new bill introduced in Congress—H.R. 4909, the “Student, Teachers, and Officers Preventing (STOP) School Violence Act of 2018—has many civil rights advocates concerned. Some have pointed out that it could exacerbate the school-to-prison crisis, further criminalize children, and increase the militarization and over-policing of communities of color, and have already started reaching out to representatives, urging them to oppose the legislation.

The bill provides funding to district and states to invest in anonymous systems for reporting threats of school violence and coordinate with law enforcement and school security. While well-intentioned, these provisions also have the potential to threaten civil rights and, in particular, cause harm to minority groups, without actually meaningfully improving school safety.

Racial Bias & No Due Process?

Most noticeably missing from the proposed legislation is language guaranteeing that due process rights for accused students will be honored, and that all students will be provided with equal, fair treatment. It is entirely possible that the bill would allow for funding to go towards harmful, ineffective security measures, and enable officials to make decisions without first gathering enough information and assessing alternatives to criminalizing students. Racism and racial bias are contributing factors when it comes to students being pushed out of schools and arrested for minor offenses. Specifically, black students are arrested or otherwise referred to law enforcement twice as often as their white classmates, and thus, any additional resources could be used to negatively target students of color and other minority groups.

Keeping Students Safe in School

What many argue we need is a comprehensive action plan to address just how widely available and easy to obtain guns are, and the issue of more than 1.5 million students attending a school without a school counselor present to help them stay on track and in school.

Your Civil Rights

In addition to all U.S. citizens and students enjoying civil rights protection and freedom from police brutality, wrongful conviction, false arrest, and race/sex discrimination at the federal level under the U.S. Constitution and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Florida also has its own Civil Rights Act. Its purpose is to secure freedom from discrimination because of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, handicap, or marital status for everyone within the state. The state law does enable victims to recover compensatory damages to cover loss of dignity, mental anguish, and other intangible injuries, as well as any economic losses (such as loss of wages due to employment discrimination). The law also enables a plaintiff to recover punitive damages designed to punish the wrongdoer.

Florida and Massachusetts Civil Rights Lawyer

If your civil rights have been disregarded, contact our law firm to ensure that you are protected. The attorneys at the Baez Law Firm are eager to assist you with your case.

Resources:

congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/4909/text

leg.state.fl.us/Statutes/index.cfm?App_mode=Display_Statute&URL=0700-0799/0760/Sections/0760.01.html

civilrights.org/support-positive-solutions-keep-children-safe-schools-oppose-criminalization-youth/

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