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Police-Free Schools

Photo by: Stephen Harlan on Unsplash

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For over a decade, Black and Brown students, their families, and communities have called for an end to the over-policing of students in U.S. schools. School-based police officers, often called School Resource Officers (SROs), are particularly criticized for targeting students of color and responding to mental health crises, teenage conflict, and non-violent crimes with unnecessary force. SROs are disproportionately concentrated in schools with a high proportion of Black and Brown students and Black and Brown students are disproportionately arrested on these school campuses. Nationally, Black youth are more than twice as likely as white students to be referred to law enforcement and three times as likely to be arrested as white students in some states.

School boards ostensibly placed police officers into schools to protect students from school shootings, often after widely publicized tragedies. However, recent research found that the rate of deaths in school shootings was actually 2.83 times greater in schools with armed guards present. While there is little indication that SROs improve school safety, research shows that students stopped by police in their schools report even greater levels of emotional distress and post-traumatic stress disorder than young people stopped in any other location.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police on May 25, 2020 sparked outrage and calls for change in policing on the streets and in our nation’s schools. Yet reform in schools would not have been possible without years of effort by local activists. In Police-Free Schools, we profile several jurisdictions that recently removed police from their schools and detail how communities were able to wage successful campaigns and the types of resources schools have implemented in place of law enforcement.

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