News and Commentary Archive

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The Center for Law, Brain & Behavior puts the most accurate and actionable neuroscience in the hands of judges, lawyers, policymakers and journalists—people who shape the standards and practices of our legal system and affect its impact on people’s lives. We work to make the legal system more effective and more just for all those affected by the law.

Let’s stop arresting kids for being kids

By Phillip Kassel, Miriam Ruttenberg and Dan Losen | The Boston Globe | February 10, 2014

The state Supreme Judicial Court said recently that a judge may protect students from “the stigma of being perceived to be a criminal” by dismissing a charge prior to the initial court appearance. This is a good step in the right direction. But we need to do more to keep youths from being arrested in schools in the first place. As US Attorney General Eric Holder said recently; “A routine school disciplinary infraction should land a student in the principal’s office, not in a police precinct.”

Consistent with a national trend addressed in new federal guidance, Massachusetts students formerly disciplined in house are now cuffed, arrested, and charged with crimes for minor misbehaviors in significant numbers. A Brockton youth with a good disciplinary record was arrested and charged with “assault with a deadly weapon” for accidentally (as the principal acknowledged) hitting a teacher with a tossed candy, causing no injury. In Taunton and Springfield, students were arrested for using bad language, slamming doors, or merely being obnoxious. Continue reading »