Common Application bans the box!

On August 7, 2018, the Common Application announced  that it is dropping the criminal history question from its college application form starting with 2019-2020 applicants.  Currently over 800 colleges and universities use the common application.  The criminal history question first appeared on the common application in 2006.  Individual colleges who are members of the Common Application will still be able to make inquiry on their own.

For the past decade, the Common Application has been under pressure from advocates, educators and the U.S. Education Department under the Obama administration to remove the criminal history question from its application form.  The call to remove the criminal history question from college applications first came from the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) in its 2010 publication, The Use of Criminal History Records in College Admissions Reconsidered.  A second study with policy recommendation was published by CCA in collaboration with the Education from the Inside Out Coalition in 2015, Boxed Out: Criminal History Screening and College Application Attrition, and underscored the harm done by the use of the criminal history box on college applications.

As more colleges and universities have banned the box, the Common Application has been under growing pressure to abolish this discriminatory and counterproductive practice.  Removing barriers to the admission of students with criminal history records to higher education is one way to improve public safety, combat mass incarceration, and make reentry meaningful.

Sexting prosecutions derailed by concerns about collateral consequences

The District Attorney of Oneida County (WI) has decided not to file criminal charges against forty teenagers implicated in a widespread sexting scandal in the Rhinelander school district.  His decision was reportedly based on concerns raised by parents and others about the collateral consequences of a criminal record.  In a joint press release, school officials and the local sheriff noted that felony charges could have limited students’ future employment prospects:

Although Wisconsin law does consider incidents such as this as felony offenses, and it does not have disciplinary alternatives for such offense, criminal charges were not filed against the students involved, which could be detrimental to the future of the students and, in turn, could be harmful to our community as these students will not be allowed to enter certain occupations

Under Wisconsin law, anyone convicted of a felony, no matter how minor, is permanently barred from obtaining over 100 professional licenses, and subject to many other adverse effects that may last a lifetime.

Instead of charging the students criminally, the school district is bringing in a Wisconsin Department of Justice special agent to give presentations to the students and parents about the seriousness of taking inappropriate photographs and distributing them on social media. Ten of the forty students who sexted on school grounds got one-day suspensions, and students who behavior violated the school athletic code were suspended for certain events.

The editor wonders whether such a resolution would be likely in an urban school setting.

New York colleges told to “ban the box” on admissions form

The website of the Center for Community Alternatives announces this important development involving college admissions:

The campaign to eliminate barriers to higher education for people with criminal history records, led by the Education from the Inside Out Coalition, is gaining traction. Less than a month ago, the New York Times Editorial Board called for colleges to remove the question about criminal records from college admissions applications. Today, the New York State’s Attorney General’s office announced a settlement with three colleges in New York state, that will end their practice of asking applicants if they have ever been arrested. The New York Times article about the settlement cites CCA’s study to support the Attorney General’s actions.

Link to the New York Times editorial.

Link to the New York Times article.

Link to the Attorney General’s Press Release.