The Teske Model: An Alternative Approach to Zero-Tolerance Policies 95
youth. This protocol aimed to create a network of support behind any child who is chronically
disruptive, before the child ended up in juvenile court.
V. TANGIBLE IMPROVEMENTS ACROSS CLAYTON COUNTY
This protocol has been remarkably successful in improving juvenile justice reform in
Clayton County. Since the program’s implementation in 2004, referrals to the juvenile court have
decreased by sixty-seven percent, suspensions are down by eight percent, and graduation rates in
Clayton County are up twenty percent. Furthermore, incidents related to weapons on campus are
down seventy-three percent and felony rates in the community decreased by fifty-one percent.
Clayton County also saw dramatic decreases in the disparity of referrals and detention rates for
ethnic and racial groups. Put simply, keeping students in school for longer periods of time lowered
crime across the board in the community and increased graduation rates.
In addition to these improvements, the overall role of the police force began to change.
Because SROs now engaged more positively with students, students began sharing helpful
information to solve other crimes. Caseloads for probation officers dropped to twenty-five cases
per officer, which led to a reduction in recidivism to twenty-four percent compared to seventy
percent in 2004. As Judge Teske stated, “This decline represents greater success among these
troubled youth and fewer victims.” The police force now had the tools and the time to devote more
resources to serious crimes and severely troubled youth.
VI. IMPLEMENTATION IN OTHER COUNTIES
Numerous counties have followed Clayton County’s lead and achieved similar results. For
example, Birmingham, Alabama had 513 SRO referrals to juvenile court in the 2007-2008 school
year, with ninety-nine percent of the students referred being African American and ninety-six
percent of offenses being petty misdemeanors. Following the protocol’s implementation, referrals
decreased by seventy-five percent and detention rates fell by seventy-two percent. Wichita, Kansas
also achieved great improvement through the use of the model, with school arrests decreasing by
fifty percent since its implementation. Finally, Rapides Parrish, Louisiana reduced their school
referrals from 1,148 to just 58 over the span of five years following implementation. Other counties
across the United States are currently following suit to create their own protocols to reduce school
arrests, with expected results similar to that of Birmingham, Rapides Parrish, and Wichita.
Judge Teske often quips that “zero tolerance is zero intelligence,” and the statistics indicate
that he is right. Under his leadership, Clayton County created an alternative approach to juvenile
court referrals that directly opposed the zero tolerance policies of the 1990’s. With astounding
results, Clayton County experienced higher graduation rates, lower crime rates, and lower juvenile
court referrals. Clayton County is emblematic of what is possible when courageous leaders take a
common sense approach to a crippling problem. The model takes work, energy, and commitment,
but if Clayton County or any of the other counties that have adopted similar protocols would attest,
it is well worth the effort to create a more effective juvenile court, school system, and police force.