Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia announced Friday a plan to deal with a school-to-prison pipeline in the state’s public schools that has been noted as the worst in the U.S. McAuliffe made the announcement during remarks at the Virginia NAACP state conference meeting, according to a Washington Post reporter who attended.
Although details of that plan were still forthcoming, McAuliffe’s announcement comes several months after the governor asked members of his staff to act on a Center for Public Integrity investigation that found the state’s schools had referred misbehaving students to law enforcement at almost triple the national rate. School officials had been sending thousands of students, many of them of middle school age, into the criminal justice system with charges of disorderly conduct, assault and resisting arrest, according to a report of the investigation.
Speaking to Va NAACP, McAuliffe announces plan to address disproportionate use of school discipline on black students & disabled students
— Jenna Portnoy (@jennaportnoy) October 30, 2015
The center’s report, released in April, came from an analysis of U.S. Department of Education data and local police records. It revealed that black, special needs and disabled students were disproportionately arrested in school and referred to the criminal justice system. The charges were often the result of misconduct described as overturning trash cans, yelling, using foul language, getting into schoolyard fights and trying to break free from the police officers who detained them.
Virginia's schools referred students to police at a rate of about 16 for every 1,000 students, the center reported. The national rate is 6 police referrals for every 1,000 students. At some schools in Virginia, the rate was as high as 228 per 1,000. Many of the students were between the ages of 11 and 14.
Last month, Virginia school officials began a statewide retraining effort for educators and school resources officers, according to the center. Officials also planned to draft new agreements for schools and police departments that limit officer intervention in student behavior problems.
Despite the school discipline issues, McAuliffe said Tuesday that there had been a significant increase in the number of Virginia schools accredited by the state in 2015. That's the first increase since 2010, when the state board of education set higher performance benchmarks for students.
Seventy-eight percent of Virginia’s 1,823 public schools were rated as fully accredited for the 2015-2016 school year, based on student performance on state English, mathematics, science and history exams in the previous school year. That's a 10-point gain, McAuliffe said.