Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio called upon Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate claims that the Broward County revised school discipline policies to instruct school resource officers to not arrest students for specific felonies to reduce the number of on-campus arrests.
“Given the gravity of the situation, I respectfully request for you and your department to review this new information and, to the best of your abilities, determine its veracity,” Rubio wrote in a letter that was similar to one he sent to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Tuesday.
Rubio noted to AG Sessions he wants the Justice Department to investigate reports that Broward County Schools had the highest ratio in the state of cases relating to weapons – with around 15 cases per 10,000 students even though the Broward School Board claimed that arrests were on the decline.
The Florida Republican also wants the DOJ to investigate claims that the department “awarded federal grants to Broward County, in part, because of the county’s revised discipline policies to end the ‘zero-tolerance’ policies to reduce the number of school-based arrests.”
Last week, the Broward County School board convened in a public forum to discuss the district’s discipline policies that many wonder if accused Stoneman Douglas School shooter participated in.
Rubio pointed to specific claims made at the forum and the prior meeting that he wants the Justice Department to verify. One such claim at the forum was that schools were intentionally classifying violent acts and felonies as non-violent acts or misdemeanors.
Another claim is that juvenile records for crimes, including felonies are intentionally being destroyed and since 2013, the senator wrote, “the number of juvenile arrests for violent crimes, including manslaughter, auto theft, robbery, kidnapping and murder, have increased, outpacing the state average.”
Although the discipline policy, crafted by Broward County Superintendent Robert Runcie during the Obama administration, was intended to do away with racial disparities when it came to suspensions and expulsions of minority students, Rubio points to a report that the ratio of minority youth and young adults arrested in Broward County increased, since policies were implemented in 2013.
As a result of the loosened discipline policy, Sen. Rubio points to a concern that students are leveraging the lax policies to their advantage to buy and sell drugs in school environments.