Public Schools With Community Support Can Solve Problems

woman-1172721_1280Some problems that seem too big to solve, may get better when communities work together.

In 2012, the Gainesville Police Department uncovered some disturbing facts, black youth were four times more likely to be referred to the juvenile justice system than white youth for similar offenses.  GPD developed:







  • alternatives to arrests with the help of Meridian Behavioral Services and the Corner Drug Store.
  • options other than arrest for officers and supervisors to use.
  • demanded Civil Citations rather than arrests for first time misdemeanor offenses

In order to intervene early before bad behavior becomes chronic, GPD:

  • engaged in officer training
  • coordinated meetings to improve mental health services delivered to students and schools
  • developed a System of Care to provide resources to families (mental health, outreach, tutoring etc.)
  • tracked progress through data collection
The Center for Children’s Law and Policy gave GPD a grant (only one of two awarded in 2012); the initiative grew and arrests plummeted.  On campus arrests dropped 31%.  Total black juvenile arrests decreased 44%.  Teen courts were used for many offenses.
Dozens of agencies had stepped up.  Then the program had to be institutionalized to ensure it would continue.  Alachua County Schools stepped up.  The System of Care began in seven schools–4 elementary and 3 middle.  Ten percent of the students with serious disciplinary problems were identified.  Fifty-three parents agreed to participate.   Each school had a social worker to coordinate care.  After only eight months, some children are thriving.  Others are making progress.
Now the challenge is to scale up the program to serve more families.  The League held a Hot Topic last week to help spread the word.  We learned about ways communities can work together to help children with traumatic life events find ways to cope.  The school is the center of a community hub.  Bringing services in to the center may be a more efficient and effective way to help children.  Helping some children helps all children feel safe and secure.  In the long run, suspending children leads nowhere good.


Posted in discipline, Florida, Public Education.


  1. After reading the report from Fla., it seems to me we need a few things or combination of things; Since each state has its own charter legislation, I am referring here to Pennsylvania. The law is weak, full of loopholes that need SB530 to strengthen them. And, I think the idea of communities in schools is good (I have seen it work well in Richmond as a model program federally funded. Why not think of the combination of charters (reformed!) and Communities in Schools as route to better results.

    • Whether or not charters are needed at all depends upon whether they offer unique services that flexible regulation can enable. We have some examples of such charters here. One serving children with dyslexia raises $200,000 from the community each year to be able to provide low student/teacher ratios and specially trained staff. It is difficult to scale up such examples unless they are located in financially viable urban areas. We have such cities, but they are targets for the for profit charter industry. Needed charter management reform did come up in the legislative session this year, but the charter industry countered with attempts to take capital outlay money away from public schools. Money rules the roost!

  2. The system still needs work to work for everyone. After the tragedy this week involving the death of a non-violent, young black male who reached out for help and lost his life instead, it is so clear that we need to do more.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.