College Application Question About Past Run-In With Police Draws Scrutiny For Being Discriminatory

A lot of graduating students are now filling up college applications in preparation for the next step towards academic furtherance. However, for teenagers who've ever had a run-in with a cop, chances of getting into a school might be slimmer for most. A particular question in most college applications is drawing scrutiny form a legal advocacy group for being discriminatory.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law reportedly reached out to 17 schools in the South on Thursday. This is to look into their practice of questioning aspiring students and asking them to give an account about their experience with violating laws and whether they have been convicted for criminal offenses.

"Inquiries regarding stops and detentions and arrests pose unnecessary barriers for vast numbers of African Americans, given the racial disparities that we see across our criminal justice system," Kristen Clarke told Reuters.

According to Clarke, such interactions with the criminal justice is not a viable measure of a child's performance inside the classroom.

The University of Alabama was mentioned as one of the schools which include such questions in college applications. Specifically, the students ask applicants if they've ever received "a written or oral warning not to trespass on public or private property." The university has been incorporating "disciplinary-related questions" since 2010.

In their defense, University of Alabama said that the questions were "appropriate" and part of the "due diligence" the academe performs to determine if an applicant's past behavior could pose a potential safety risk.

Virginia Tech is more blunt as they ask this question on their college application forms: "Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a violation of any local, state or federal law, other than a minor traffic violation?"

The African-American population in Virginia Tech is only 4%, which falls far below the 20% total black population in the state, Business Insider Australia noted.  

According to the New York Times, the Common Application, a college application form that is is widely used by 600 colleges across the country, does delve deep into the details of the arrest, but simply require applicants to tick "yes" or "no" in response to such questions. Naturally, anyone who checked "yes" even though he/she was never convicted of a crime would have to deal with extra scrutiny.

Michael Reilly, executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said that while many schools did not want to pry into students' previous records, they were urged by the necessity to prevent campus violence.     

The Lawyer's Committee is planning to communicate with 17 institutions to address the issue in a bid to reduce discrimination on minors with criminal histories. While the group is currently focusing on Southern states, they plan to take their initiative on a nationwide scale. 

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