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  • Writer's pictureMichael Laxer

Keep police out of schools

"Black and Indigenous students, students of color (BIPOC), and students with disabilities often have to attend schools with fewer resources and support and school staff that are often not adequately trained and staffed to accommodate children with disabilities. When there are no other support staff to address behavioral problems, some teachers request help from law enforcement. This is where things often go awry. Police in schools do what they are trained to do — detain, handcuff, and arrest. Past data analyzed by the ACLU shows that schools with police reported 3.5 times as many arrests as schools without police. Just as with the concentration of policing in low income communities of color, policing in schools is also racialized. Our report, “Cops and No Counselors” analyzed CDRC data from 2015 to 2016 and found students of color are more likely to go to a school with a police officer, more likely to be referred to law enforcement, and more likely to be arrested at school. Nationally, Black students are more than twice as likely as their white classmates to be referred to law enforcement. Black students are three times as likely to be arrested as their white classmates, and in some states, Black girls are over eight times as likely to be arrested as white girls. During the 2015-16 school year, 1.6 million students attended a school with a sworn law enforcement officer and no counselor.

What makes a child most likely to be targeted by a police officer while in school? Simply having a disability. Overall, students with disabilities were nearly three times more likely to be arrested and referred than students without disabilities (and this disparity increases up to tenfold in some states), and the risk is multiplied in schools with police.

If a child has a disability, and they are also a student of color, the odds are even worse. For instance, in Rhode Island, Native American students are referred to law enforcement at a rate five times the national average. But Native American boys with disabilities are arrested at a rate almost 7.5 times the national average. Black and Latino boys with disabilities represent only 3 percent of students nationally, but account for 12 percent of school arrests. Black boys are also often labeled as “emotionally disturbed” or simply “bad” when non-compliant behavior occurs — whether or not they have an emotional or behavioral disability — and those behaviors disproportionately lead to a law enforcement response rather than a supportive response through appropriate accommodations. Schools have consistently chosen policing over implementation and expansion of mental health resources that support our students. During the 2015-16 school year, 1.6 million students attended a school with a sworn law enforcement officer and no counselor. We know from the 2013-14 school year data that Black students were 3 times more likely to attend a school with more security personnel than mental health personnel. What will the story of the 2017-18 school year data tell us?" from the ACLU press release "Police in Schools Continue to Target Black, Brown, and Indigenous Students with Disabilities.", July 9, 2020



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