The harsh disciplinary actions of police assigned to schools, detailed in a series of Center for Public Integrity reports, have become increasingly controversial in recent years, creating worries that criminalization of minor indiscretions has created a counter-productive “school-to-prison pipeline.”
“We decided to take this position as a campaign for full removal of police in schools (because of) the day-to-day experiences of criminalization that have become routine in many schools across the country, and the high-profile incidents that have brought more attention to this issue,” said Dignity in Schools national coordinator Natalie Chap.”
Federal officials have expressed concerns as well, but have stopped short of calling for removal of cops entirely. This month, the U.S. Department of Education and the Department of Justice released a set of “tools” for school districts to “responsibly incorporate” officers into the learning environment.
In 2014, the departments released a volume of recommended discipline practices to help schools move away from suspensions that were robbing large numbers of kids of class time. Officials have urged schools to limit the use of school police because of the negative impact on students who are handcuffed and sent into courts for common adolescent—or even prepubescent—behaviors that might better be handled by teachers, counselors and parents.
“I am concerned about the potential for violations of students’ civil rights and unnecessary and harmful introduction of children and young adults into a school-to-prison pipeline,” U.S. Department of Education Secretary John B. King also wrote in a letter this month to school districts about the issue.
Since 2012, investigations by the Center for Public Integrity have shown that arrests, ticketing and rough physical contact fall most heavily on student with disabilities and students of color. National data from 2011-2012 pointed to Virginia’s rates for police-student contact as the highest in the country; local police data showed that thousands of black children, many in middle school, were arrested for disorderly conduct in disproportionate numbers. An autistic 11-year-old sixth grader, for example, was charged with disorderly conduct for kicking a trash can and felony assault for trying to wiggle free from an officer.