Panama City- Under the Zero Tolerance policy, school fights were almost often times turned-over to law enforcement, but in 2009 the state amended the policy recommended handling incidents in-house, reducing the number of students with criminal records.
Has it worked? According to a new report- no, at least not in Bay County.
In the 2008-2009 school year, Bay District schools referred 180 student incidents to the Department of Juvenile Justice.
In 2009-2010, the first year after the amendment, Bay County's referral rate jumped 20%, to 216-incidents.
The report accused Bay District School officials of failing to amend the Zero Tolerance policy to follow the state standard.
"They still have not complied the SB 1540 law that was passed. They're still taking it too far," said Bill Pritchard, the local ACLU President.
Bay District School Superintendent Bill Husfelt disagrees.
“ They took from wording of policy, but we don't turn those over as referrals because they don't violate the current law. We just haven't updated our policy. We update our policy every year or two," said Husfelt.
Husfelt provided district data showing the number of incidents decreasing the last several years, but shooting-up last year.
He believes the poor economy played a role.
"When things are bad at home and kids are more frustrated with their parents’ economic status, they're going to get frustrated and do something criminally that they might not do under better situations or circumstances," said the Superintendent.
Husfelt says he wants to make sure the punishment fits the student's crime.
"We're not going to cover up something because someone does something wrong. We want the schools to be safe and if anybody knows about keeping places safe, after what we've been through, we know about keeping places safe."
Local members of the ACLU are still concerned about the report's findings.
"This sort of thing never happened when I was in school. Everything was handled in the school. There was no automatic policy where kids were handed over to the justice system," said Pritchard.
To see the full report, go to the web page listed below: