Breakout #3: Prevention Before Apprehension: Curbing the Criminalization of Clinical Behaviors by Embedding Social Workers
Students of color are arrested at a higher rate than white students, as a result of unidentified or untreated mental health diagnosis, social and emotional issues, and substance abuse. These students are in need of treatment to prevent the recidivism not jail time. Providing alternatives to punitive disciplinary practices to reduce the number of students suspended or expelled from school, decrease the number of students who enter the criminal court system, as well as improve school safety. We compiled and analyzed data to determine program development as it relates to student response to intervention, program objectives, and outcomes. By creating partnerships with school and state officials, and community organizations to help advocate for the implementation of alternatives to punitive disciplinary practices, the number of arrests have decreased. There has been a decrease in the number of students being arrested who were experiencing mental health crises. An increase of alternation solutions to punishment for lesser criminal offenses. An increase of PSW referrals to address the mental health aspects of calls for police service, highlighted the need for funding for additional PSW. Increase parents’ education as it relates to advocating for their students’ academic and mental health needs and the best way to communicate to school administrators and health care providers. All programs, just as we did using data to determine the targeted population who were overrepresented in the school-to-prison pipeline, viewed patterns of behavior of students and adults to determine intervention and progress monitoring to instill preventions before apprehension and arrest.