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Rubio Urges Education, Justice Depts to Review Broward County Schools’ Discipline and Safety Policies

Apr 26, 2018 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C.— U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) urged the Department of Education (ED) and Department of Justice (DOJ) to review Broward County School District’s discipline and school safety policies, as well as escalating crime in the community. The School Board recently held public meetings where alarming claims were raised about these policies. Rubio is directing the Departments to review and verify these claims. Both of Rubio’s letters are below.  

The full text of the DeVos letter is below:

Dear Secretary DeVos:
 
The Broward County School Board recently held public meetings where alarming claims were raised about the school board’s discipline and school safety policies, many of which were also highlighted by national media outlets. Given the gravity of the situation, I respectfully request for your department to review this new information and, to the best of your abilities, determine its veracity. This includes, but is not limited to, various reports that allege:

  1. For a number of years, the Broward County School Board had access to $100 million for school safety improvements – less than $6 million of which was spent.
  2. When determining awardees for certain grants, the U.S. Department of Education (the department) gave preferential treatment to school districts with discipline policies that discouraged schools from reporting certain violent behaviors to law enforcement. 
  3. The department awarded federal grants to Broward County, in part, because of the county’s revised discipline policies to end the “zero-tolerance” policies in an effort to reduce the number of school-based arrests.
  4. School Resource Officers were directed not to arrest students for certain felonies.
  5. In 2016, Broward County schools had the highest ratio in Florida of cases involving weapons – with about 15 cases for every 10,000 student – despite the Broward School Board reporting that arrests were on the decline. 
  6. Claims that schools were intentionally classifying violent acts and felonies as non-violent acts or misdemeanors in order to prevent a referral to law enforcement.

When considering the Department of Education’s knowledge of Broward County’s school discipline policies, I ask for any information available regarding the department’s decision to financially reward a school that knowingly allowed students to return to schools after being convicted of serious crimes, including “rape, murder, attempted murder, sexual battery or [a] firearm related” offense. Additionally, was the department aware of whether this policy required the parents of other students to be notified that their child would soon be attending school with a student previously convicted of rape, murder, attempted murder, sexual battery or a firearm related offense?
 
This week, I held an extensive discussion regarding school safety with the focus on preventing another Parkland tragedy. It was clear that all parties, from the federal government to local government and school volunteers, want to help children excel. Unfortunately, local schools are not always equipped with the expertise necessary to protect children. Educators are not security experts and many are in need of technical assistance as to how to update school safety and security within older school buildings, or construct new buildings that strike the appropriate balance between security and ensuring students have a welcoming learning environment.  To that end, I ask you to develop a plan of action to determine whether the department would be able to develop a specific division of experts able to provide states, counties and/or schools with the necessary technical assistance to improve safety in existing structures and best-practices in school safety when constructing new buildings.
 
Thank you for your time and consideration of these important issues.
 
Sincerely,

###

The full text of the Sessions letter is below:
 
Dear Attorney General Sessions:
 
The Broward County School Board recently held public meetings where alarming claims were raised about the school board’s discipline and school safety policies, many of which were also highlighted by national media outlets. Given the gravity of the situation, I respectfully request for you and your department to review this new information and, to the best of your abilities, determine its veracity. This includes, but is not limited to, reports that:

  1. The department awarded federal grants to Broward County, in part, because of the county’s revised discipline policies to end the “zero-tolerance” policies in an effort to reduce the number of school-based arrests.
  2. School Resource Officers were directed by local police departments not to arrest students for certain felonies.
  3. In 2016, Broward County schools had the highest ratio in the state of cases involving weapons – with about 15 cases for every 10,000 students – despite the Broward School Board reporting that arrests were on the decline. 
  4. Claims that schools were intentionally classifying violent acts and felonies as non-violent acts or misdemeanors in order to prevent a referral to law enforcement.
  5. The ratio of minority youth and young adults arrested in Broward County increased, since the county’s school discipline policies were overhauled in 2013.
  6. Since 2013, the number of juvenile arrests for violent crimes, including manslaughter, auto theft, robbery, kidnapping and murder, have increased, outpacing the state average.
  7. Juvenile records for crimes, including felonies, are intentionally being destroyed.
  8. Students are manipulating the lax discipline policies by using schools to buy and sell illegal drugs.

Additionally, the Broward County school discipline policies allowed students to return to schools after being convicted of serious crimes, including “rape, murder, attempted murder, sexual battery or [a] firearm related” offense. If a person is convicted of such crimes, would these actions disqualify the offender from being able to legally purchase a firearm?
 
Sincerely,