Dr. Helen

Is Academic Redshirting Causing Crime?

I saw this article at Psych Central on the link between older age in kindergarten and crime:

A new study has found that students who are older when they start kindergarten are more likely to drop out of school and commit serious crimes as teenagers.

Additionally, this negative outcome is significantly more likely for children from disadvantaged backgrounds, according to a researcher from Duke University.

“This research provides the first compelling evidence of a causal link between dropout and crime. It supports the view that crime outcomes should be considered in evaluating school reforms,” said lead author Dr. Philip J. Cook, a professor in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy….

The explanation for the seeming contradiction lies in the age at which students may legally withdraw from school, which is 16 in North Carolina, he noted.

“If they were born before the cutoff date, they have just 19 months between their 16th birthday and graduation to be tempted to drop out,” Cook said. “If they were born just after and enter school later, they have 31 months, and for some of them, it is an irresistible temptation.”

“It’s human nature,” he added. “For a lot of adolescents, high school is a drag.”

Naturally, the fix according to Cook, the lead author of the study is…more school:

Policymakers should take notice, Cook said.

“Even something as crude as a regulation that requires a kid stay in school to a fixed age, whether he wants to or not, has a considerable effect on criminal activity,” he said.

Rather than tie when kids can drop out to an age, states might consider requiring completion of a certain grade or a specified number of years in school, he said.

Basically, a kid starting school a year later has a year more of his life put on hold in school. If instead of graduating at 17 or 18, the kid will be 19, it is tempting to drop out. Who wants to be hanging on that long? Will forcing kids to stay in school for more time really help? The lead author seems to think so but I am not so sure.

Other factors may be at play. Often, parents redshirt kids who are more emotionally immature or who have behavioral problems meaning that they may be more susceptible to impulsive, criminal behavior anyway. The more mature ones less prone to behavioral problems tend to go early or the parents may pull strings or get the kid into a private program so they can attend kindergarten without the wait. Adding time to school may or may not be the answer, but to have a kid go late, then refuse to let them out seems to me to be cruel and unusual punishment. I thought that was illegal in this country?