The real promise of Broward County’s PROMISE program

As quickly as information spreads through Twitter, Facebook and other social media platforms, unfortunately, that also means misinformation spreads rapidly, too. In the ongoing discussion about last month’s shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, some are suggesting that Broward County Public Schools’ work to dismantle its school-to-prison pipeline contributed to this tragic event.

To help the public conversation about Broward’s student disciplinary practices progress in a productive direction, we want to shed some light on the Broward community’s PROMISE program, based on research we’ve done over the past several years.


PROMISE is just one part of Broward County’s school discipline approach and applies only in select cases involving minor infractions.

Preventing Recidivism through Opportunities, Mentoring, Interventions, Supports and Education, or PROMISE, is not the sole policy by which Broward addresses student discipline. PROMISE provides alternative supports through a mentorship and education program for students who have committed minor non-violent offenses that previously resulted in arrests and suspensions — such as vandalism causing less than $1,000 in property damage, petty theft, shouting profanity and throwing spitballs. As the name of the program implies, the goal is to keep students in school and prevent future infractions.

PROMISE is a direct partnership with law enforcement.

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PROMISE was created by community stakeholders throughout the county — from law enforcement and juvenile justice offices to parents, teachers, principals and local community leaders. This committee agreed the best way to handle non-violent misdemeanors on school campuses was to get to the root of the behaviors with personalized student supports in school.

Referrals to the program are handled on a case-by-case basis. Prior to PROMISE, students were often jailed for minor behavioral issues that fell under the umbrella of “disorderly conduct,” leaving them with lifetime marks on their records even if charges were dropped or no convictions were made. And as Broward County’s chief assistant public defender told the Sun Sentinel, serious criminal activity and actions are always referred to local police and sheriffs, not PROMISE. In Broward County Public Schools, law enforcement officials still make the final decisions about whether arrests are warranted.

PROMISE provides more intensive support and oversight for students, not less.

PROMISE provides additional intervention and counseling to students beyond standard school discipline policies. Students in PROMISE are assigned to the Pine Ridge Education Center, an alternative campus with its own principal and administrative staff in Fort Lauderdale. PROMISE leverages these additional resources and personnel in addition to the ongoing support the students receive once they return to their original school.

PROMISE predates the Obama administration’s efforts to reform student disciplinary practices.

Broward County’s Collaborative Agreement on School Discipline, a homegrown cooperative relationship created across relevant public agencies that includes the PROMISE program, was launched in 2013.

The Obama administration, on the other hand, issued its first guidance about student disciplinary practices in 2014, followed by additional guidance in 2015 and 2016 — all in response to an overwhelming body of research showing dramatically disproportionate administration of student disciplinary policies in K-12 schools nationwide. The guidance was designed to help schools and school systems ensure disciplinary actions were fair and equitable across the entire student body, regardless of race, ethnicity, personal identity or ability.

PROMISE reduces student offenses.

Since PROMISE was implemented, the number and severity of disciplinary offenses as well as violence against teachers and students has not increased. In fact, 90 percent of students in the PROMISE program have avoided recommitting offenses.


For more on the PROMISE program, check out these additional articles.


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