Ex-police officer shares ideas to curb the ‘school to prison pipeline’

school-to-prison

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Former Philadelphia Deputy Kevin Bethel spoke at Wednesday’s Dauphin County Commissioners meeting to discuss the importance of police departments and school districts developing diversion programs.

Bethel says times have changed, and it is important that change takes place on how kids who don’t commit serious crimes are treated.

“Coming to school with scissors or fighting in the hallway or code of conduct issues is different that bringing a weapon to school and making threats,” Bethel said. “Over the last three decades, when zero tolerance was implemented, those less serious incidents became crimes, and that is just not acceptable.”

Bethel leads the diversion program in the Philadelphia School District. He said since 2014, arrests in schools have dropped nearly 65 percent.

He says school districts in Dauphin County need to develop diversion programs and they will see a difference.

“You want to redirect them to services versus arrests,” Bethel said. “The goal is to reduce repeat offenses, but more importantly get services to them and help them with the issues they may have.”

According to Bethel, there has been major progress since the program began.

“When you keep kids out of the system and in the classroom they stay focused on learning, instead of other things, that may lead to a life of crime,” Bethel said.

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