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ACLU Cites Higher Arrest Rates for Minority Students in West Hartford

Posted by whforums on November 18, 2008

The ACLU yesterday released a report about minority student arrest rates in Hartford, East Hartford and West Hartford that revealed some startling data. Some of the “highlights,” from the ACLU press release:

  • In 2006-2007, black and hispanic students represented 24 percent of the student population, but 63 percent of all arrests.
  • Black students in West Hartford were twice as likely to be arrested after a fight than were white students.
  • and … “students of color committing minor disciplinary infractions were more likely to get arrested than white students committing the very same offenses.”

In The Courant, Police Chief Strillacci responded skeptically, arguing that not all fights are made equal, that arrests can be a socially positive force and defending the School Resource Officers at Hall and Conard.

You can read the ACLU’s entire 50 page report here. For me, it’s weekend reading.

My quick .02, based on the highly publicized data — I think West Hartford’s SROs rock, and I think our teachers rock. But I find the data extremely disturbing. There’s a long pipeline of people between the incident that occurs, the documentation of that incident, the witnesses to that incident, the intervention of administration, the intervention of the SRO and the intervention of other officers. And all along that pathway there are opportunities for latent, unexamined and perhaps even unconsidered prejudice to accumulate and inflect the equal rights of all students. This is not an accusation of racism — this is an argument that we all hold unexamined prejudices that shape and impact our day to day experience and actions in ways we likely don’t notice. It’s also an argument that, because of that prejudice, school may be a very different place for a student depending on the tone of their skin. For a district as concerned with the achievement gap as West Hartford, that’s something that should make everyone stand up and take notice.

Given these numbers (and it’s the third bullet that really gets me), and whatever we think of the ACLU report, it seems that at the least it presents each of us with the opportunity to take a step back, examine our prejudices and our parenting. West Hartford, if there’s even a semblance of validity in these numbers, then somewhere, we (that’s you, me and our town as a whole) have a problem.

Another looming concern here — the potential scapegoating of the School Resource Officers, who, in this context make an easy target. Blaming the SROs seems not only irresponsible, but an easy way to “deal” with a problem without making it go away. School Resource Officers have difficult and dangerous jobs, and to lay a town’s problems at the feet of one public servant who enacts policy but does not influence it seems at best misguided …

One Response to “ACLU Cites Higher Arrest Rates for Minority Students in West Hartford”

  1. […] November 17, 2008, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released a study which has found a bit of ink for the racial disparity aspect: minority students are more likely than white students to be […]

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