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New Report Highlights SBDI Among Innovative Approaches and Recommendations for Safer Schools

Center for Policing Equity Report Cover for The Center for Policing Equity outlined strategies to create safer learning environments for students in a new white paper, Redesigning Public Safety: K-12 Schools. The paper urges policymakers and school administrators to invest in public health strategies such as school diversion measures and restorative justice initiatives. It highlights Connecticut’s School-Based Diversion Initiative (SBDI) as a successful approach to improving student well-being, school climate, and school safety.

SBDI is a school-level initiative designed to decrease arrests, suspensions, and expulsions and connect students to mental health support. Since 2009, SBDI has served 73 schools across 26 Connecticut school districts and continues to expand to additional schools each year. SBDI schools have reduced court referrals by 29% and connected 55% more students to behavioral health services. SBDI helps keep kids in school, improves student outcomes, and ensures that students receive fair and equitable in-school discipline regardless of mental health, special education needs, or demographic characteristics such as race or ethnicity.

School discipline approaches, racial disparities in discipline, mental health support, and community partnerships all contribute to school safety. One significant finding highlighted in the CPE report is the detrimental effect of punitive disciplinary actions on students, particularly those from racial and ethnic minority backgrounds. The white paper emphasizes the need to shift away from punitive measures such as suspensions and expulsions towards equitable disciplinary policies, restorative justice practices, and alternative interventions to address the root causes of behavior issues and provide behavioral health support. Investing in mental health services, counseling, and social-emotional learning programs can have a significant impact on reducing disciplinary incidents and improving student outcomes.

Furthermore, the report stresses the importance of building strong community partnerships to enhance school safety. By collaborating with law enforcement agencies, community organizations, and parents, schools can establish a supportive network that fosters a culture of safety, preventing potential threats and promoting positive relationships among all stakeholders.

"Research has found that developing social-emotional skills early can lead to fewer conduct issues and less bullying in school, as well as improved long-term outcomes related to education, employment, substance use, and contact with the criminal legal system... some studies suggest that restorative justice programs, when implemented well, are associated with increased academic achievement, improved student behavior, and decreased exclusionary discipline, among other positive outcomes." (Center for Policing Equity K-12 School Safety White Paper, p. 19)

The white paper concludes by calling on policymakers and educators to implement evidence-based strategies and lessons learned from successful school safety initiatives across the nation, such as Connecticut’s School-Based Diversion Initiative. It provides a roadmap for schools to adopt comprehensive approaches that prioritize prevention, intervention, and support.

Read the white paper from the Center for Policing Equity here.

Learn more about the Connecticut School-Based Diversion Initiative (SBDI) here.


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