Behind the Story: Learn about CBS News’ coverage of arrests of young children at school

For many people it is unthinkable: children, some only in the second grade, tied up at school like criminals. Yet it is a reality in schools across the country.

Such incidents often make headlines, but the CBS News investigative team wanted to know if there were any other cases that didn’t receive public attention.

Where does this data come from?

To answer this question, we turned to the US Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC).

Conducted every two years, the survey of almost every school in the US includes data on everything from test scores to staffing to bullying. It also includes data on “school-related arrests.”

This data is from the 2017-2018 school year, the most recent available. We have been told by the Ministry of Education that more recent data will not be released until 2023.

Would you like to find out more? We released our code and data for this entire project.

How do we know this is correct?

We undertook a rigorous data cleansing and verification process that included contacting individual school districts and state education authorities to verify their data.

If we were unsure of a school’s numbers, we removed that school from the analysis and took steps to ensure other schools with similar issues were removed as well. When a school informed us that their data was inaccurate, we followed up and asked for an explanation of what went wrong and how it would be fixed in the future.

We also removed schools that could interfere with data analysis — such as those in long-term secured juvenile justice facilities — and those that we knew were inaccurate, such as online-only schools.

700 arrests don’t sound like much. Are you sure that’s true?

There are several issues with this data that mean the number of arrests of young children at school could be higher than reported.

Several school districts — including Chicago Public Schools and New York City Public Schools — did not report arrest dates to the CRDC this year.

Other school districts told us their data was inaccurate. For example, several schools in Texas told us that they made mistakes in their CRDC submission because the person completing the survey misunderstood the questionnaire. Since these and similar schools have been removed, the actual number of arrests is likely higher.

Does this include arrests of non-students who were arrested in schools?

no The CRDC defines a “school-related arrest” as “an arrest of a student for any activity conducted on school property, during off-campus school activities (including school transportation), or pursuant to a referral by a school official.”


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