Dignity in Schools Campaign Bay Area Statement about Police In Schools

Dear friend of Coleman,

Dignity in Schools Campaign – Bay Area Chapter (DSC Bay Area – of which Coleman Advocates is a founding member) is a coalition of advocacy, legal, and policy organizations working to end the school-to-prison/deportation pipeline. The school-to-prison/deportation pipeline refers to the policies and practices that push our schoolchildren out of classrooms and into the juvenile and criminal injustice systems. Our work centers on youth and communities impacted by systems of oppression and their struggle to be free of police and state-sanctioned violence in schools and communities.

As a coalition, we want to be clear that “safety” does not equal police in our school communities. We know through our advocacy work, empirical research, and lived experiences that having police in our schools and communities does not equate to public safety. Police presence in our schools creates a climate and culture that criminalizes Black and Brown, trans and queer students. Many students and parents have described their schools as feeling like prisons. Increasing police initiatives deprives our youth and families of freedom and needed resources that could otherwise be funding restorative justice trainings and community healing practices. For instance, here in Oakland, during the 2015-2016 school year, the school district spent $6,641,893 on 108 district-funded school police and school security officers[1] but only $2,577,773 on district-funded restorative practices.

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reported in May 2015 that some 43% of all U.S. public schools–including 63% of middle and 64% of high schools– had such officers on their grounds during the 2013-2014 school year.[2] Proponents of police presence in schools often spout out phrases like “it is a matter of public safety.” Some argue that police officers in schools create a safe and tranquil environment for both students, teachers, and staff. But let’s be clear, the continued aggressive and violent assault of young people of color is by no means a safe and tranquil school environment. In fact, studies show that the mere presence of security guards in schools increases the likelihood that a student will be suspended or arrested.[3] Even more alarmingly, the NCES has identified disparate trends regarding which schools are hosting these officers. According to NCES data compiled every two years analyzing school crime and safety, schools with more non-white students, as well as schools that are poorer, have much higher numbers of police officers assigned to their schools.[4] In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 51% of high schools with high Black and Latinx enrollment have sworn-law enforcement officers in schools.[5]

School districts with a students of color majority are becoming increasingly militarized and punitive. School districts in California, Florida, Texas, Georgia, Michigan, and Kansas have all received military weapons, vehicles, drones and grenade launchers through the 1033 program. In addition to the allotment of military weapons, school districts are hiring police officers and security guards who are often unable to cut it as traditional police officers. What does this mean? It means that school districts are placing less trained and less stable individuals in front of our students. School districts are giving school police and security guards license to do whatever they want with our students, and the fire power to wage a small war. Is this the description of an empowering and safe learning environment? Our answer is a resounding no.

We know what a safe, healthy, and empowering school environment looks like: it is a place where students feel affirmed and supported by the adults who facilitate their academic learning experience; it is a place where there is no threat of physical harm to your body. We believe our youth need places of learning where their wings can be extended and not curtailed by harsh discipline policies. We believe that there is a direct connection between school pushout and early criminalization of our youth. As such, our collective effort is ending the school-to-prison/deportation pipeline that pushes our youth and community members into prisons and detention centers. Like the prison-industrial complex, the school-to-prison/deportation pipeline is an apparatus that is fueled by white supremacy, cis-heteropatriarchy, and oppressive capitalism that we must abolish.

DSC Bay Area wants to continue the momentum from our recent “wins” moving forward. These accomplishments include successfully forcing the Oakland Unified School Board to end suspensions and involuntary transfers for “willful defiance and disruption;” our regional convening in Richmond, California, that brought over 50 people to end policing and implicit bias in schools; and our continued efforts to uplift the work of organizers on the ground and envision schools without police. These collective wins were possible through cross agency collaborations, for we know that we must all come together to make our goals a reality.

Signed,

DSC Bay Area: Coleman AdvocatesACLU of Northern CaliforniaBlack Organizing ProjectCommunities United for Restorative Youth Justice,Equal Justice SocietyGSA NetworkPolicyLink, and Public Counsel.

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[1] Oakland Unified School District, 2016-2017 Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) and Budget, p. 315 & 318 (June 8, 2016), available at https://ousd.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx….
[2] Greg Botelho and Ralph Ellis, Police in Schools: Why Are They There?, CNN, Oct. 30, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/…/south-carolina-school-resource-office…/.
[3] Justice Policy Institute, Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools, Nov. 2011, available at http://www.justicepolicy.org/…/educationunderarrest_fullrep….
[4] Dara Lind, Why Having Police in Schools Is A Problem, In 3 Charts, VOX, Oct. 28, 2015, http://www.vox.com/…/9626820/police-school-resource-officers.
[5] U.S. Department of Education, 2013-14 Civil Rights Data Collection: First Look, Oct. 28, 2016.

MAR 22, 2017