BALTIMORE – (March 9, 2018) The NAACP issued the following statement in response to attempts by Florida Senator Marco Rubio to dismantle a key component of a model Broward County program designed to help end the “School to Prison Pipeline.”
In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, instead of a collective mission to focus efforts and resources on solving the critical gun violence issues facing our nation, Sen. Rubio has instead proposed changes to the groundbreaking PROMISE program.
The PROMISE program focuses on intervention and prevention to address non-violent disciplinary infractions, providing students mentoring, counseling, and support to encourage positive behavior. In his proposed plan to curb gun violence in schools, Senator Rubio notably backs away from raising the purchase age for assault-style rifles and restricting magazine capacity, but instead has called for the bypassing of a critical component of the PROMISE program – ensuring that no student is prematurely reported to law enforcement before proper corrective measures are attempted.
The component is a key vehicle in overall strategies to end the “school to prison pipeline.” Over the past two decades, the state of Florida has locked up over a 1 million – mainly Black and Brown students over simple and routine discipline issues ranging from talking back to teachers to schoolyard scuffles.
The removal of this component, combined with the possibility of armed teachers in our schools, sets the stage for transforming our schools into prisons.
NAACP leaders in Florida and nationally are speaking out against the attacks on this model program:
“The Broward County PROMISE program has done groundbreaking work to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, reducing the unnecessary use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, and arrests for minor school disciplinary violations. It is a model nationwide, and our units will continue to work collaboratively with school administrators and other stakeholders to implement similar programs. The premise of the program is simple: stop and think before sending students into the overburdened and underfunded juvenile justice system. It is better for the student, better for law enforcement and the courts, and better for the school community. Locking up children for minor misbehavior is in no one’s best interest,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP President and CEO.
“Florida has been a national leader in destructive zero tolerance policies, and Broward County’s historic PROMISE program has provided leadership in undoing the damage zero tolerance created. We cannot abandon this effort. Our children are too precious; their futures are too important. We will continue to support this program as we work with school administrators, law enforcement, the juvenile justice department, the courts, the public defender and community groups to address student needs,” said Adora Obi Nweze, Florida State Conference NAACP President.
“The Broward County community worked for almost a decade to create the PROMISE program, and we have seen it transform our schools. Before PROMISE, we led the state in student suspensions and school-based arrests. Now instead of locking children up without considering alternatives, the Broward County PROMISE program treats minor student misbehavior holistically, using individualized considerations to provide resources to address student behavioral issues. We know that the PROMISE program has positively affected thousands of children, and the results speak for themselves. The program has reduced disciplinary incidents and school-based arrests, with 90% of the children enrolled in PROMISE completing the program and not committing another disciplinary infraction. We are proud that we have been able to create a national model for how to address minor student misbehavior, and we will continue to work with Broward County Public Schools to support this crucial program,” said Marsha Ellison, NAACP Fort Lauderdale/Broward County President.
The NAACP fully supports Broward County’s PROMISE program and will continue to advocate for its full protection. Ending the school to prison pipeline in the Black community is at the crux of NAACP’s criminal justice efforts and any reform that seeks to repeal these efforts will be vehemently opposed.