Getting Arrested Is Normal for Children at This Tiny School

At Garrison, it's all about showing the kids who's really in charge
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 24, 2022 3:10 PM CST
Getting Arrested Is Normal for Children at This Tiny School
   (Getty - bmcent1)

In rural Illinois, there is a place called the Garrison School, which exists for children with severe emotional or behavioral disabilities. Although its motto is "The Sharing, Caring School," Jacksonville locals know it as a school for "bad kids." That perspective is perhaps reinforced by how often police vehicles show up there—sirens, lights, and all—to handcuff and arrest children as young as 9 and pull many of them into the justice system. An investigative report by ProPublica and the Chicago Tribune has found that Garrison—whose student body generally isn't bigger than 65—has more students arrested than any other school in the country. By far. Police show up every other day, on average, and in one recent year, half of all Garrison students were arrested at least once.

ProPublica didn’t find lots of “bad kids," but it found many with severe autism, ADHD, and PTSD from abuse and parental death and/or incarceration. It also found a school culture in which staffers routinely call 911—not as a matter of safety "but because someone at the school wants police to hold the child responsible for their behavior." The school doesn't provide a social-emotional learning curriculum, and arrest records show children being charged with aggravated battery for infractions that would never precipitate a call to law enforcement in other public schools, such as spitting at an employee. The report also covers the dire consequences such practices can have on children's lives, as well as the fact that the school may be in violation of federal law. While state officials expressed concern, the system isn’t well-equipped to reform Garrison, which is governed by its own "hands-off" board. (Read the report here.)

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