The Judiciary Committee will consider HB 5432, proposed legislation to reduce school-based arrests. The bill would require local and regional boards of education to adopt and implement policies that would more clearly define the role of law enforcement assigned to schools. It would also make public access to data regarding school-based arrests more accessible.
Between September 2011 and February 2012, about 1,000 school-based arrest cases went to court, said Hannah Benton, a staff attorney with the Center for Children’s Advocacy.
“I think we need to be wary of the effects of school-based arrests on those children, in addition to the effects of suspensions and expulsions,” said state Rep. James Albis, a Democrat representing East Haven in the 99th House District.
The Hartford-based Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance is supportive of the bill.
“I know that when people hear school arrests they assume we mean weapons and drugs, but we are usually talking about common fights and things like smoking a cigarette,” said CCJA’s Executive Director Abby Anderson.
Because of that, it’s important for schools to consider adopting graduated sanctions. This is important, Anderson said, “so that there is knowledge about alternatives to calling or engaging the police.”
These alternatives can include better access to psychiatric care for students, Benton said.
“Research has shown that school-based arrests makes kids more disengaged from their education,” Benton said. “Obviously we are not saying it’s wrong for arrests in certain cases. The idea is to address other problems and handle them in a more productive way.”
Albis said a 2011 joint report from the Council of State Governments Justice Center and the Public Policy Research Institute of Texas A&M University analyzed the records of all Texas seventh graders for a period of time. According to the report more than half of the students had been disciplined with at least one suspension, and those that faced such discipline were more likely to come into trouble with the law down the road.
“I do not know exactly what prompted this bill to be addressed this session, nor am I aware of a disproportionate number of school-based arrests in East Haven,” Albis said. “One of the bill's purpose’s is to make such data more easily accessible."
SIMU GUNS BAN SOUGHT
State Rep. Kim Fawcett, a Democrat representing Fairfield and Westport in the 133rd House District, wants a ban on simu guns, or simulated guns.
As vice chairman of the legislature’s Select Committee on Children, she joined other lawmakers and police chiefs from Connecticut to support HB 5220.
“The proposed legislation not only protects our kids, but also protects our public safety officials and helps eliminate the possibility of a tragic accident involving young people who purchase these guns for fun,” Fawcett said at a recent press conference.
Simu guns are usually toy guns, which have been changed to look like real firearms. The proposed legislation would prohibit altering imitation firearms to look like real guns. HB 5220 would also ban look-a-like firearms, paintball guns, pellet-firing air guns and BB guns from school grounds.
The Judiciary Committee will also hear proposed legislation that seeks to “prohibit the disclosure of the identities of persons appointed to administer the death penalty.”
HB 5429 comes amid news that prison guards are training for executions and also as the General Assembly is once again expected to consider legislation to repeal the death penalty.
“Sounds like adding more employees to the "protected class" under the FOIA. I could see where such employees could be a target in a heated debate over the death penalty,” said state Sen. Michael McLachlan, Republican representing Bethel, Danbury, New Fairfield and Sherman in the 24th Senate District.
The training resumed after word circulated that a Death Row inmate has chosen to waive his appeals. Connecticut last executed a prison in 2005 when serial killer Michael Ross waived his appeals.