Why you don’t have to involve the police at school to get back to “normal”

Since COVID-19 forced many American schools to teach children remotely, parents and elected officials have naturally been worried about when things will return to normal.

However, in certain aspects of education, a pre-pandemic return to “normal” may not be in the best interests of American students.

I think that having a large number of police officers in public schools is one of the realities when the time for reform is ripe. I say this not only as a scholar of educational politics, but also as a former deputy prime minister of a public school in New York City. I served just before Rudolf Giuliani, then Mayor of New York City, moved to take over the security of the city’s school system to the police.

Looking back on that decision and its consequences will help inform ongoing discussions about whether or how police are affiliated with American schools.

Police hijacking

Upon becoming mayor in 1994, Giuliani took the extraordinary step of shifting responsibility for school discipline to the New York Police Department, eventually seeking approval from the then-independent school board in 1998.

Giuliani wanted the school to be more prominent, even if there was evidence that violence in schools in the city was rare.

As the city’s deputy principal in the early 1990s, I opposed this move. The same was true of then-Principal Ramon Cortines and his successor, Rudy Crew. We all expressed concern that it would not make the school safer, but would adversely affect the climate of the school as a whole and hinder the progress of education.

At that time, the School Safety Division reported to me that there were about 2,900 school safety officers, none of whom were police officers. The budget was about US $ 72 million. By 2020, under New York City police, the number of school safety officers had nearly doubled to 5,511.

In addition, some budget reports record spending in excess of $ 400 million. However, the significant surge in staffing and spending is part of a larger social justice issue known as the “school-to-prison pipeline,” which exposes the judicial system as a result of minor violations at school. Occurs.

Discipline gap

Nationally, black boys are suspended at least once during the school year, more than three times as often as white boys. In one state, Indiana, black students are about 16% more likely to be suspended or dropped out of school than white students.

Studies have shown that black students are “more likely to be considered problematic and punished than if white students committed the same crime.”

In 2018, law enforcement officers were stationed in about half of US schools. This is evidence that many US school systems follow a more visible form of school discipline that has closer and deeper ties to police and law enforcement agencies than ever before.

Police alternative

I think there is another way.

School districts such as Oakland, California and Denver, Colorado have moved to eliminate or phase out the presence of police in schools.

At least in Auckland, there are plans to use savings for more counselors, social workers and workers who focus on restorative justice. This includes practices such as peer mediation, compensation and community services, rather than punitive measures such as suspension. Or exile.

The results of pilot studies in both Auckland and Denver were very positive. In Auckland, graduation rates increased by 60% and suspension rates decreased by 56% at schools that practiced restorative justice.

Through the US Department of Education, the next administration will have the opportunity to focus attention and resources on increasing police to schools. Instead, President-elect Joe Biden’s administration provides a funding incentive to encourage school districts to improve school safety and school success by investing even more in counselors and other forms of student support. Can be provided.

By doing so, as I see, American schools will be safer, but more students will graduate and fewer young people will be fed into the school-to-prison pipeline.

Author: Stanley S. Lito-Professor, Faculty of Public Policy, Duke University

Why you don’t have to involve the police at school to get back to “normal”

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