- Non-white homeless youth between the ages of 16 and 19 are more likely than white homeless youth to report harassment by police and to be arrested, according to a new study released today by the Crime and Justice Research Alliance, a nonprofit organization that provides policymakers and practitioners with research on criminal justice issues.
- The researchers, from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL), also found that white students, who either live on the street or in abandoned buildings, were just as likely to report harassment. And if they reported harassment in the past, they were just as likely as youth of color to be arrested.
- The results were drawn from the Midwest Longitudinal Study of Homeless Adolescents and focused on 428 homeless and runaway youth from small to medium urban areas in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. According to a press release, the findings “suggest that the increased visibility that comes with living on the street and experiencing prior police harassment among homeless youth may set in motion subsequent events that culminate in arrest.”
With many school leaders focusing on revising discipline policies in order to decrease racial and ethnic disparities, the study draws attention to the fact that homeless youth face even more risk of winding up in the juvenile or criminal justice system, regardless of their race.
Another recent study by Chapin Hall, a youth policy center at the University of Chicago, shows that LGBTQ teens are more likely than non-LGBTQ peers to be homeless, and that the highest rates of homelessness were among black LGBTQ students. More than 60% of LGBTQ youth surveyed as part of the center’s Voices of Youth Count project reported experiencing physical harm from others, which could lead to interaction with law enforcement.
The researchers recommend more training for health and mental health providers in identifying needs among LGBTQ youth who are homeless, and Tara Warner, a co-author of the UNL study, said in an email that “schools are positioned to provide homeless youth with stability, support, and to connect them to additional necessary resources in order to ensure their needs are met. “
While school leaders might be focusing on how discipline policies affect racial subgroups, these studies show that they might need to look even deeper to identify the students most at-risk.