Expanding Police in Schools Will Not Address Racial Disparities in School Discipline or Keep Our Children Safe
Advocates Call for Real Solutions to Improve School Safety and Climate on the Heels of U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice Announcement to Cops in Schools
WASHINGTON, DC – Today, racial justice organizations condemned the misguided attempt of the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to define the role of police in public schools. In official correspondence to state and local law enforcement agencies, DOJ announced its intent to expand police presence in schools and fund additional School Resource Officers (SROs) through its Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, a program that annually provides grants to increase the number of police in schools. The Department of Education also released recommendations and a new rubric about incorporating police into schools. The Alliance for Educational Justice, the Philadelphia Student Union and Advancement Project, a national, multi-racial civil rights organization, released the following statement in response:
“The U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice are investing in a strategy that will never improve school safety or create the nurturing learning environments students need to succeed,” said Hiram Rivera, executive director of the Philadelphia Student Union. “From our extensive work with communities, we know that more police in schools equals more students being arrested for minor misbehaviors and more hostile learning environments. It is no secret that police often bring their ‘crime and punishment’ culture to schools, and when that happens, students — primarily students of color — experience violations of their basic human rights.”
“The federal government cannot justify their plan to place guns in schools by suggesting that police officers are mentors and counselors,” continued Rivera. “Police officers are law enforcement agents who are trained to enforce the criminal code. This is a matter of priorities. Government and school officials rarely seem to find money for good teachers, social workers, counselors or investments in programs that improve school culture such as restorative justice, yet they find millions for police in schools? It’s time to start prioritizing student success, not student criminalization.”
“It’s not a stretch to state students are under siege in their classrooms,” said Jonathan Stith, national coordinator of the Alliance for Educational Justice. “From Baltimore, to Philadelphia, to Columbia, South Carolina we have seen police in schools assault and violently brutalize Black children. The Obama Administration must end the war on youth and recognize that police fundamentally don’t belong in schools. Once a student has contact with police in their schools, it compromises instruction time and increases the likelihood the child will end up in the criminal justice system later in life. Communities that do not trust cops in their neighborhoods do not want to invite them into their schools with their children.”
“We will not eliminate racial disparities in school discipline, boost academic achievement or dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline by expanding police presence in schools,” said Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of Advancement Project’s National Office. “The federal government should focus on solutions that have been proven to work – such as building strong bonds between adults and students in the school building, investing in restorative justice and reducing racial disparities in school discipline – rather than offering incentives for more police. After years of releasing federal guidance on the persistence of racial bias in school discipline, it’s baffling the DOJ and the DOE would offer a set of recommendations that are silent on how police in schools disproportionately harm Black students, LGBTQ and gender non-conforming youth. If we want to end the over-criminalization of youth in schools and address the core problem of racial discrimination in school discipline, we must completely realign funding and policy priorities. Instead of funding police in schools, we must fund counseling, student support services and restorative approaches.”
Advancement Project is a multi-racial civil rights organization. Founded by a team of veteran civil rights lawyers in 1999, Advancement Project was created to develop and inspire community-based solutions based on the same high quality legal analysis and public education campaigns that produced the landmark civil rights victories of earlier eras.