Race and Policing
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While school-based law enforcement duties vary across school districts, the primary responsibility of officers on campuses is law enforcement. SROs (School Resource Officers), however, have also been increasingly called upon to respond to school disciplinary incidents, resulting in harsher consequences for minor misbehaviors by students.Schools are required to collect and report data on key education and civil rights issues – including school policing data such as the number of students referred to law enforcement, the number of students arrested at school-related activities, and the number of sworn law enforcement officers (including SROs) in their district – to the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which is charged with enforcing certain federal anti-discrimination laws in schools.What's more, school districts and state departments of education are required to publish data on school policing under the Every Student Succeeds Act. Though Louisiana has school data collection laws, these laws have not caught up to federal requirements for the collection and publication of certain student data, including school-based arrests and referrals to law enforcement and the presence of SROs in Louisiana's schools.Through research and public records requests, the SPLC found that local school districts are not accurately and consistently collecting data on their school policing programs, and the data that was collected and reported had discrepancies compared to data reported to the OCR and data collected by law enforcement agencies. This suggests that educators, families, and policymakers lack accurate, basic information about school policing in the state. The Louisiana Legislature should require schools, school districts, and the Louisiana Department of Education to accurately collect and publicly report data on school-based arrests and referrals to law enforcement as already required by federal law.
This study investigates the effectiveness of North Carolina Senate Bill 402, Section 8.36 – Grants for School Resource Officers in Elementary and Middle Schools, which provides matching state funds to districts for use in middle and elementary schools. Using generalized difference-in-difference and negative binomial hurdle regression designs, seven years of data – inclusive of 110 districts and 471 middle schools – were analyzed to assess the effectiveness of the state-funded SRO program. Results show that offering matched SRO funds to increase policing and training was not associated with reductions in reported acts (infractions) per school year, a key measure of school safety. Racial enrollment percentages, such as higher enrollments of Black and Hispanic students, were generally not associated with increased disciplinary acts. However, total enrollment was associated with increases in reported acts and increased grade level proficiency was associated with reductions in reported acts. Findings also show that public policy activity generally increases after school shootings occur. However, a multi-pronged school safety approach, beyond preventing mass acts of violence through increased policing, is recommended. Specifically, policies that focus on a broad range of issues, including those that improve academic achievement and address larger societal challenges have potential to enhance school safety.
The Denver Police Department (DPD), Denver Public Schools (DPS), and community organizations in the Denver area have built a collaborative approach to school safety and positive youth development designed to combat the school-toprison pipeline. Together, these organizations advocate a comprehensive approach to safety in which schools' disciplinary policies avoid removing students from the classroom, social service providers are substantively included in ongoing safety efforts, and students within the juvenile justice system are included in youth engagement efforts. The goals are to establish positive relationships between students, faculty, school staff members, and school resource officers; prioritize student wellbeing; and involve police only as a last resort following efforts to de-escalate conflict.Early indicators show that Denver's approach is working: In the last five years, rates of student suspension, expulsion, and referral to law enforcement have declined despite a 6 percent increase in total student enrollment over the same period. From the 2012–2013 school year to the 2014–2015 school year, district-wide in-school suspensions declined by 35 percent, out-of-school suspensions by 15 percent, expulsions by 32 percent, and referrals to law enforcement by 30 percent. What's more, the total number of behavioral incidents reported to DPS declined by 9 percent over the same period, indicating that the number of potential safety risks to students has decreased following changes in policy and practice.Viewing these efforts holistically, this report identifies a number of promising practices and lessons learned thatpractitioners, policymakers, and researchers may consider when engaging with students around the country
The systemic criminalization of youth of color, youth with disabilities, and youth of color with disabilities in schools is one of the most blatant and egregious examples of structural racism and violence in this country. The presence of police officers, guns, handcuffs, and metal detectors in schools creates hostile teaching and learning environments that are reinforced by harsh, punitive, and exclusionaryii school discipline policies. Together these practices constitute what is widely referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline. As this report demonstrates, Milwaukee's reliance on punitive approaches to discipline is ineffective, costly, and, most troublingly, racially biased.
We are reissuing Police in Schools are Not the Answer to the Newtown Shootings, an issue brief that our organizations released in the wake of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. At the time, many of the responses to the shooting focused on placing more police officers and more guns in schools. Research and the experiences ofcountless students, teachers, and parents have taught us that while these proposals may create the appearance of safety, the actual effects wreak havoc on school culture and fuel the school-to-prison pipeline. After Newtown, we urged lawmakers at the local, state, and national level to resist policies that would turn even more schools into hostile environments where students, especially Black and Brown students, are more likely to be arrested, harassed, and assaulted by police. Five years later, in the wake of the tragic Parkland shooting, we have yet again seen calls tomilitarize and weaponize our schools, despite no evidence that these policies will protect our students. Our position remains the same: proposals that increase the presence of police, guns, and other law enforcement approachesto school safety should not be the response to school shootings.
Far too many students in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) are being pushed out of school. This is a problemthat is now commonly known as the "school-to-prison pipeline," which occurs when schools rely on punitivediscipline policies to suspend, expel, or refer students to law enforcement. These overly-punitive policies have seriousconsequences. They increase the likelihood of students dropping-out, not graduating, and becoming involvedin the juvenile or criminal justice system. These policies disproportionately impact students of color, students withdisabilities, and LGBTQ and gender non-conforming students. In an effort to begin creating change in Alexandria,we have researched the data and policies in ACPS and written this report, to encourage positive changes thatsupport our youth, rather than criminalize them.This report contains a timeline of our work to implement restorative justice, an analysis of the suspension andreferral to law enforcement data from the 2014-15 school year, and a list of recommendations to end harsh schooldiscipline in ACPS. Out of a sense of urgency for the youth in our community, we call on ACPS to consider the information in this report and fully and immediately commit to proper implementation of restorative justice and an endto the school-to-prison pipeline. We cannot risk the future of our young people while ACPS continues to stall on theimplementation of restorative justice.
Law enforcement and security personnel stationed in schools across the United States – often referred to as "school resource officers" (SROs) — are primarily trained to interact with adults, so children — particularly children with disabilities — risk experiencing lasting and severe consequences if SROs are expected to respond to their behavior. SRO involvement tends to criminalize normal adolescent behavior and disproportionately impacts youth of color, contributing to racial and ethnic disparities in the justice system. Security personnel and law enforcement should not be involved in any student disciplinary matter – only when there is a genuine threat to school safety.
The use of harsh discipline in elementary and high schools – suspensions and expulsions – has skyrocketed since the mid-1990s. More than 3 million children per year are suspended from school and an additional 100,000 are expelled. Over the last several years, however, there has been growing awareness that excluding young people from school has devastating effects that include increased student dropout/pushout rates, decreased graduation rates, and increased youth involvement in the criminal and juvenile justice systems.This report investigates how colleges are using high school disciplinary information in the admissions process and how high schools are responding to requests for such information about their students. We frame our fndings in the context of the increased criminalization of normative adolescent behavior and the disparate impact of suspensions and expulsions on students of color and students with disabilities. Efforts to improve access to education for young people from low income communities of color and frst-generation college students are undermined by policies that includehigh school disciplinary information in admissions decision making. Instead of promoting campus safety, excluding students with past disciplinary records is likely to decrease public safety in society at large by denying opportunities for higher education to otherwise qualifed applicants.
We can imagine the pain and suffering that the youth and families in Newtown, Connecticut are experiencing. As youth growing up on some of America's deadliest streets, we are all too familiar with gun violence and its impacts. Too many of us have been shot and shot at. We have buried our friends and family members. Nearly all of us have been to more funerals than graduations. No one wants the violence to stop more than we do.But, we have also seen how attempts to build public safety with security systems, armed police and prisons have failed. We want college prep, not prison prep.
Fueled by increasingly punitive approaches to student behavior such as "zero tolerance policies," the past 20 years have seen an expansion in the presence of law enforcement, including school resource officers (SROs), in schools. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the number of school resource officers increased 38 percent between 1997 and 2007. Some cities, like New York City, employ more officers in schools than many small cities' entire police force.With this rapid increase in the presence of law enforcement, including SROs, in schools, districts from around the country have found that youth are being referred to the justice system at increased rates and for minor offenses like disorderly conduct. This is causing lasting harm to youth, as arrests and referrals to the juvenile justice system disrupt the educational process and can lead to suspension, expulsion, or other alienation from school. All of these negative effects set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs for taxpayers as well the youth themselves and their communities.