ACLU-MI Alarmed By Recent Arrests of 49 Students at a Detroit High School, Calls on Parents to Contact the Organization

March 11, 2009

DETROIT -- The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan announced today that it launching an investigation into the hallway sweep conducted by the Detroit Police Department at Central High School that resulted in the arrest of 35 boys and 14 girls for “loitering.” The organization is calling on arrested students and their families who attend Central High School to contact the ACLU of Michigan to determine whether legal challenges are appropriate. Affected CHS students and their families can contact the ACLU of Michigan at 313.578.6800.

“We are gravely concerned by the fact that Central High School students were arrested for simply not being in class – conduct that should have and could have been handled by school administrators,” said Mark P. Fancher, ACLU of Michigan’s Racial Justice Project Staff Attorney. “This appears to be a prime example of the school-to-prison pipeline. These kids already face great challenges, and now they may be faced with having to explain these arrests to future employers and schools.”

The school-to-prison pipeline is a term that refers to the way in which schools push children out and hasten their entry into the juvenile and the criminal justice system. Large racial disparities in school discipline, dropout rates and school-based arrests all feed the pipeline that eventually causes children of color to be disproportionately entangled in the criminal justice system.

“Teachers and principals have been dealing with kids who cut class for years without calling in the police and having them arrested,” said Ann Crowley, a DPS middle school teacher, and cofounder of Detroit Children First. “If the expectations had been made clear to the students at the beginning of the school year, it is likely that many would never have been where they were when they got arrested.”

The United States Department of Education records indicate a marked increase in recent years of the number of schools who now have armed safety and police officers on school premises on a regular basis. Detroit Public Schools has its own police force, and its officers were involved in the hallway sweep.

The ACLU of Michigan has been conducting a statewide study of the school-to-prison pipeline for more than two years, and the organization continues to see alarming evidence of racial discrimination and harassment that stigmatizes and criminalizes students of color.

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