Research shows that adolescents have a high propensity for engaging in risk taking activities given the significant changes in neurology, biology, and other developmental issues (e.g., social; cultural; familial) they experience. Specifically related to decision-making, science shows the pre-frontal cortex region of the brain is underdeveloped until a young person is well into their 20’s. With these findings in mind, how should this influence the way we think about key juvenile justice policies and practices like the age of juvenile jurisdiction?
In Manchester High School, students were being arrested “practically for breathing,” according to Superintendent Ana Ortiz. That’s no longer the case. Last year, the school’s arrest rate fell 78 percent.
Manchester was one of three towns that the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance worked with to dramatically reduce arrests in their schools without compromising safety. We share their stories in our new report, Adult Decisions: Connecticut Rethinks Student Arrests. Manchester, Windham and Stamford, Connecticut deserve heaps of praise for their work to end the flow of kids into the juvenile justice system, while also making their schools safer and more welcoming places for all students.
We started with a simple proposition: Kids shouldn’t be arrested in school for things we wouldn’t consider a crime outside of school – for example, for possession of tobacco. Minor misbehavior should be looked at as an opportunity to teach, not a reason to send a kid away in handcuffs. These districts found ways to support students and teach good behavior. That makes school a better environment for every student.