The Criminalization of Juveniles within the Confines of the Baltimore City Public School System

 

 By: Pascale Cadelien

            In 2008, although blacks and Hispanics comprise about 25% of the United States population, they accounted for 58% of all prisoners.[1] The disproportionate number of minorities who are imprisoned results from intersectionality, or the codependency of social identifiers, such as race, gender, and class, in the systemic perpetuation of discrimination.[2] In Baltimore, the problem of intersectionality made national headlines following Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s request that the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) conduct an investigation into the city’s police force.[3] In its August 10, 2016 report, the DOJ described the Baltimore Police Department’s (“BPD”) pattern of performing unconstitutional searches, abusing individuals’ civil rights, and failing to hold cops accountable for their misconduct.[4]

Aside from underscoring that Baltimore has a long way to go in fixing its police-citizen interactions, the DOJ report also raised the troubling concern of how the BPD’s presence in Baltimore City public schools significantly perpetuates the school to prison pipeline.[5] According to the Maryland Department of Juvenile Services, in 2015, at least 3,390 juveniles were arrested in Baltimore, the majority of which were black.[6] Of those arrests, 427 occurred in school.[7] At 45%, this majority black school district, which comprises only 10% of the State’s primary education population, disproportionately accounts for Maryland’s school arrests.[8] Even more alarming, is that these juveniles who are being arrested are not “hardened criminals.”[9] Research of 400 school-based arrests in the 2013 and 2014 academic years established that 75% of kids arrested in city public schools either had their charges dismissed or were found not guilty.[10]

Examining the origin of the policing of Baltimore City public schools illustrates how this system has persisted. In 1967, the legislature’s creation of a school security division coincided with the newly-elected mayor, Thomas D’Alesandro III’s, school integration plan.[11] Around this time, the black-student population in city schools increased while the city maintained its pre-integration districts.[12]  In 1984, the school security division transitioned to an official police force as the crack epidemic made its way through Baltimore.[13] Finally, in the 1990s, the legislature enacted a bill that enabled city schools’ security to have the same functions as standard police officers.[14]

As this piece demonstrates, there are grave consequences when intersectionality fulfills its purpose of systemic discrimination. Communities become broken and children, the most vulnerable, get caught in the crosshairs.


Pascale Cadelien is a third-year day student from Prince George’s County interested in criminal defense. This spring, through the Criminal Practice Clinic, she is gaining litigation experience as student-attorney. Pascale is also a Staff Editor on UB’s Law Forum. Prior to joining UB, she attended Salisbury University on the eastern shore.  In 2013, she graduated cum laude with a B.A. in English and as a member of the English Honors Society.  Pascale can be reached at pascale.cadelien@ubalt.edu.

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