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Police patrol schools, hand out misdemeanors

New Jersey students may do well to behave. Hundreds of schools in one Southern state use police to keep order. And there's no reason to suspect the trend won't spread across the nation. 

Juveniles absent from class or with an excess number of late arrivals can be slapped with a Class C misdemeanor and ordered to pay a fine up to $500. The misdemeanors are the rough equivalent of a speeding ticket or other small traffic offense. Still, some say using the court system to punish misbehaving minors may not be the best solution to curbing classroom woes. 

Schools in one city spend $20 million on security and surveillance every year, as law enforcement personnel patrol hallways and playgrounds. And it's not just about the money. One retired teacher worries the system could lead to a pipeline that funnels children from schools to prison.

Refusal to pay a fine can land some in jail. Even though legislation has passed to ban punishment for petty offenses, discretionary tickets are still being issued. All of that has tied up the juvenile court system and created an influx of new prisoners. 

That doesn't sit right with some, including the retired teacher interviewed by the BBC. She says she has witnessed students disciplined for wearing the wrong color belt or shoes. Others report that young adults have been given misdemeanors for swearing or displaying banned jewelry. 

It appears that with the police patrols come both extra security and excessive punishment. At least one interviewee complained current policies criminalized the normal behaviors of children and favored police intervention over effective classroom management.  

Source: BBC News, "Misbehaving pupils ending up in court," Nina Robinson, April 10, 2012

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