A recent survey by the Center for Popular Democracy found that more than two-thirds of public school students thought that police should be removed from schools. One in five students reported being verbally harassed or made fun of by police in school, and two of every five young people surveyed felt unsafe just seeing them. The findings were released in a report titled “Arrested Learning: A Survey of Youth Experiences of Police and Security at School.” The report details how students often feel targeted by police in schools, including through regular, negative interactions as well as sexual harassment. The students surveyed overwhelmingly favor receiving additional resources and support, like mental health treatment, more teachers, and dedicated youth programs, rather than greater funding for police and security. Because of over-policing, many students—often low-income and students of color—are funneled out of public schools and into the criminal justice system.
The Center for Popular Democracy’s Senior Policy and Campaign Strategist Kate Terenzi said the school-to-prison-and-deportation pipeline was one of the most “egregious examples of systemic racism and state-sanctioned violence in the country.… Students deserve more than an education system that is hell-bent on criminalizing them instead of providing them with the resources they need to succeed.” Many of these children have learning disabilities or histories of poverty, abuse, or neglect, and would benefit from additional educational and counseling services. Instead, when they act out in school, they are isolated, reprimanded, and sometimes criminally charged. As of 2013, 51 percent of high schools with majority Black and Latino enrollment had law enforcement officers on campus, compared to only 32 percent of majority white schools. Across the country, Black students are more than twice as likely as their white classmates to be referred to law enforcement or arrested at school. Studies have also shown that those involved with the criminal justice system as adolescents are more likely to go to prison as an adult. Roughly 40 percent of kids who go into juvenile detention end up in prison by the age of 25.
Stationing police in schools is a relatively new practice. In the 1960s, members of the Johnson administration saw the rising crime and poverty rates as a lack of “law and order.” In response, LBJ implemented programs to promote equitable access to housing, employment, and schooling after declaring a “War on Poverty” in 1964. However, public officials at all levels of government simultaneously pursued their own programs of economic and social control.
By the late 1960s, the federal government initiated “youth crime prevention” programs in many of the nation’s largest cities. In Kansas City, Mo., a program allowed teachers and school administrators to label students as young as 9 as “pre-delinquent,” subjecting them…
Read More: Why Are There Cops in Schools?