|Time to End Policing in Schools
by Jamala Rogers
As the big spotlight shines on deadly police practices, flashlights are being shone on other non-lethal aspects of policing. One of those is the role
of police officers in schools, often euphemized as a resource personnel. The presence of cops were controversial prior to the brutal murder of
George Floyd in Minneapolis. Renewed attention to the role of cops in schools has resulted in new policies and no police contracts.
Cops in schools is an issue for Madison. Several years ago, I participated in a protest organized by Freedom Inc. that has been advocating for the
removal of police. The negative practices have forced many to re-think their past view on School Resource Officers (SROs). Just like in the streets,
Black and Brown students catch the brunt of police actions in school halls. These students of color are often disproportionately disciplined based
on recommendations from SROs including arrests contributing mightily to the school-to-prison pipeline.
Local teacher unions, school boards and parent groups are making decisions from immediate termination of contracts to phase out plans.
Districts such as Oakland, Denver, Portland and Minneapolis have ended their contracts with police departments. Seattle has suspended its
contract for one year. There is community pressure in Houston to divest from school policing.
In Chicago, the police have a $33 million contract when counselors and
nurses are all but absent. These lucrative contracts keep police employed,
but don’t necessarily keep the schoolhouse safe. Just like in our
communities where police respond to situations, a mediator or mental
health professional is necessary for resolution, not an armed, hostile cop.
The American Civil Liberties Union released a report that highlighted the
fact that our tax dollars are not best spent with police. Millions of students
attend schools were there are no counselors, nurses, psychologists, or
social workers. Fourteen million students to be exact. Clearly, it is past
time to look at how to re-align our tax dollars with our priorities.
Our children and youth face incredible challenges as they try to grow up
healthy and strong. Children face hunger and housing issues. They
experience neglect and abuse. They don’t leave that at the classroom door.
The instability of their homes affect their ability to learn. Many of the public
schools are under-resourced; providing teachers with what is needed for
an optimal learning environment is elusive. The public school system is in
crisis and has been for some time. The COVID-19 pandemic will put more
stress on public budgets. Our children can’t be the sacrificial lambs.
The call for police-free school is legit and now the conditions exist for us to
make the case. The national demand to de-fund the police includes
wherever they show up. Communities must lobby their elected officials
starting with the school boards to divest in policing and invest in services
and programs for students and their families.
I’m confident that the school districts in Wisconsin will be decisive and
stand with the children in their care. Make schools police-free and bring in
the personnel and other support services that enhance our children’s
academic and social development.