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CONTACT:  Michelle Morton, MMorton@aclufl.org, (786) 363-2737

April 12, 2018

Institute will equip supporters with resources to advocate for juvenile justice reform in their own counties

MIAMI, FL – The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida has launched the “Keep Kids Learning Institute,” an advocacy training platform designed to help local activists catalyze juvenile justice reform, improve outcomes for at-risk youth and accomplish targeted policy goals within their communities.

The Institute includes training and briefing materials on juvenile development, crime, and the school-to-prison pipeline, a disturbing national trend in which children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. It also provides targeted Advocacy Toolkits which prepare communities to advocate for Smart Justice reforms. The School Safety Advocacy Toolkit, released today, prepares advocates to ensure the Legislature’s decision to add law enforcement or armed staff to every Florida school in response to the Parkland tragedy does not further criminalize common youth misbehavior.

While juvenile crime and arrest rates have steadily declined through the use of Smart Justice principles like early intervention and rehabilitation, disparities continue to persist. Florida’s black students are 2.5 times as likely to be removed from their classes as their white peers, more than 3 times as likely to be arrested and twice as likely to be charged as adults when arrested. Our LGBTQ youth, who are more than twice as likely to feel unsafe at school and to fight at school, are more likely to be pushed out of their schools and are over-represented in our juvenile justice system. Florida schools expel students with learning disabilities more than 17 times as often as students without such disabilities. These students are also nearly 8 times as likely to be arrested at school.

The “Keep Kids Learning Institute” will activate community members, parents, teachers and youth as advocates for reform and prepare them to effect change through engaging their local police departments, schools and elected officials.

“Our state’s school discipline policies and juvenile justice system continue to support a vicious cycle that increases the likelihood young people caught in the system will reoffend,” stated Michelle Morton, juvenile justice policy coordinator at the ACLU of Florida. “There is so much that local advocates can do to impact these systems. For example, over the coming months, school boards across the state will determine how to implement the Legislature’s mandate for law enforcement or armed staff at every school, and state attorneys will begin work to create circuit-wide pre-arrest diversion programs. Our Institute aims to empower and equip local activists with the data, research, and training to advocate effectively for youth in their own communities.”

More information about the Keep Kids Learning Institute is available here: www.aclufl.org/en/keep-kids-learning-institute

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