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Questioning the Impact of School Policing

Questioning the Impact of School Policing

Schools across the country are ramping up security measures in response to last month’s mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas. However, many students, teachers, and administrators oppose the increased police presence, which they view as an additional stressor – particularly for people of color who continue to be disproportionately targeted by law enforcement.

“We don’t see police presence as part of the solution,” said high school senior Malika Mobley. “If you really think about why police don’t make us safer, you can draw connections to all types of tragedies that impact the most marginalized among us.”

Mobley is co-president of the Wake County Black Student Coalition in Raleigh, North Carolina. For the past two years, the student-led organization has been pushing for counselors to protect students at schools instead of police.

Freelance writer and photographer Shane Paul Neil told The Washington Post that the prospect of sending more police into schools frightens him.

“For White parents it was, ‘we don’t want to bring more guns into school,’” Neil said. “For myself and other Black parents, it’s that we don’t want to force police interaction in school with our children in particular.”

Law enforcement is more likely to be stationed in schools with larger populations of Black and brown students and analysis of U.S. Department of Education data reveals that “a police officer’s regular presence at a school is predictive of greater odds that school officials refer students to law enforcement for committing various offenses.” In other words, students of color are often criminalized for actions that might otherwise be regarded as typical adolescent behavior.

What is more, according to a 2021 report conducted by University at Albany researchers and the RAND Corporation, police “do effectively reduce some forms of violence in schools, but do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents.” Critics of policing in schools have cited the Uvalde massacre as a particularly devastating example of just how ineffective law enforcement can be in such situations.

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