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III. SRO EFFECT ON CLAYTON COUNTY SCHOOLS
School-based offenses rose dramatically in the 1990’s following the placement of SROs in
local Clayton County middle and high schools. For instance, there were 46 school-based offenses
in Clayton County in 1995, a time prior to SRO presence in Clayton County schools. This number
increased to 1,200 school-based offenses by 2003. Of these 1,200 cases, ninety percent of cases
were misdemeanors, mostly for behavior that was formerly handled by school administration. The
dramatic increase in offenses from 1995 to 2003 was consistent with the cultural shift towards
zero-tolerance where students were subject to predetermined consequences without regard to
mitigating circumstances or proper context.
These policies had profound effects on graduation rates, arrests of children of color, and
recidivism. By 2003, the graduation rate of Clayton County schools fell to an all-time low of fifty-eight percent. When suspensions increased, there also was a precipitous increase in juvenile crime,
particularly among minority students. Of all referrals to juvenile court, eighty percent involved
African American students. In addition, the average caseload for a probation officer was 150, with
two-thirds of the cases being low-risk cases. Because of this lack of supervision, the recidivism
rate spiked to seventy percent. Judge Teske contends that all of these impacts were a direct result
of zero-tolerance policies that were negatively harming the Clayton County community.
IV. A NEW APPROACH
The Clayton County Model, informally known as the “Teske” model, focuses on
collaboration with community stakeholders to reduce school arrests by creating a protocol by the
which the stakeholders address school-based acts. To develop the protocol, stakeholders engaged
in a series of conversations starting in 2003 that were moderated by a neutral party that addressed
concerns and goals for the group. Following a review of the county data, the collaborators began
shaping a plan to address their own concerns and goals. The protocol was memorialized in writing,
and training was provided for the different sectors so as to ensure that it be implemented properly.
The goal throughout the meetings was to create data-informed policies that could be effectively
implemented with community buy-in and support.
Following these series of meetings, Clayton County unveiled a three-tier graduated
response system that addressed the four most common misdemeanor offenses being referred to in
the juvenile court, specifically, disruption, fights, disorderly conduct, and failure to follow police
instructions. Pursuant to the program, rather than immediately getting sent to the juvenile court,
students were first given a written warning and were required to attend conflict resolution
workshops before being referred to court. The hope, of course, was to give students an opportunity
to correct their behavior through intervention by school leaders and trained conflict resolution
professionals before the court system stepped in.
The protocol also formed a multidisciplinary panel that would meet regularly to discuss
children at risk for referral to the court. Following a meeting on a specific child, the panel connects
the child and their family services outside of the school setting. These services consisted of
individual and family therapy, wrap-around services, and anything else deemed appropriate. The
goal of these meetings was to be proactive, rather than reactive, in providing services to at-risk