After the mass shooting at a Texas elementary school, schools across the country pledged to step up security and increase law enforcement presence on campus — in part to reassure parents and students.
But police in schools can make some students even more anxious, not less. Especially for black students and other students of color, their personal experiences of policing can make them feel insecure and alienated from the school when they see officers on campus.
High school senior Malika Mobley spotted three different school resource officers patrolling the campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. On his way home from school, Mobley saw officers arrest a clearly distraught classmate and push the student into the back of a police vehicle.
“They were crying, ‘Why are you doing this to me? I didn’t do anything,'” said Mobley, co-president of the Wake County Black Student Coalition. “I just had to stand there and couldn’t do anything.”
Since 2020, the student group has campaigned to remove police officers from school buildings in favor of investing in counselors and student support staff.
“We don’t see police presence as part of the solution,” Mobley said. “If you really think about why the police aren’t making us safer, you can make connections to all sorts of tragedies that strike the most marginalized among us.”
Police officers have had a regular presence in schools across the country in recent decades, often in the form of school resource officers tasked with building relationships with young people to promote trust in law enforcement, provide safety, and enforce the law. Critics say it often results in armed police officers being on campus Black students are arrested and punished disproportionatelyleading to what they call the school-to-prison pipeline.
Researchers have found that black college students report feelings less sure around cops than their white counterparts and that there were more cops in predominantly black school districts View students as a threat.
Black students and other students of color are also disproportionately likely to have negative interactions with police in schools, ranging from referrals to law enforcement to being arrested or restrained, said Katherine Dunn, director of the Opportunity to Learn program at the Advancement Project. The funding project has documented at least 200 since 2007 instances of officers at schools attacking students, she said.
“It shows all the physical harm that young people suffer at the hands of the police,” she said. “It’s also the experience of being humiliated and feeling like a criminal because you have to walk down the hall to your class with several armed police officers who are not there for your safety who you see arresting your friends , attack your friends.”
In 2018, following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the state legislature passed legislation requiring public schools to have either law enforcement or armed personnel on campus.
A study of the impact of the law by University of Florida professor F. Chris Curran found that the expanded police presence was followed by an increase in school arrests and the number of behavioral incidents reported. He said there were many factors to consider when deciding the role of the police in schools.
“I would like to see this conversation include thoughtful reflection on potential benefits, reducing certain behaviors, but also potential unintended consequences if this increases the likelihood of students being arrested, or potentially increases racial differences in discipline and arrest rates.” ‘ Curran said.
While there are examples of school officials who have intervened during gun violence incidents, Curran said, the presence of law enforcement does not always guarantee that shootings or other acts of violence will not occur or that the officer would be immediately effective to stop the offender and minimizing casualties.
In a statement issued this week on school safety best practices following the Uvalde, Texas, shooting, the National Association of School Resource Officers emphasized the importance of “having a carefully selected, specially trained SRO on their campus have whenever the school is in session.”
The nonprofit group has dismissed criticism that officers are contributing to a pipeline from school to prison. Officials who follow best practice do not arrest students for disciplinary issues that would normally be handled by educators.
As elsewhere across the country last week, the The police presence was increased outside of schools across North Carolina to reassure families in the wake of the Uvalde, Texas shooting.
Wake County schools have 75 school resource officers who are recruited from several local law enforcement agencies.
The Wake County Black Student Coalition’s campaign to remove the officers stemmed in part from student reports of bad experiences with officers, including a 2017 incident in which a school resource officer was filmed picking up a black girl and punching her to the ground, said Chalina Morgan-Lopez, a high school senior who is co-president of the student group.
“I think wanting more officers in schools, especially from people who really feel protected by law enforcement, is a reasonable response, although that’s not my lived experience,” Morgan-Lopez said. “But I think people need to consider this…that officials are actually doing more harm than good.”
Last summer, the school system made several changes to its school resource officer program, including a new process for handling complaints involving officers and adjustments to training to better prepare them for the school environment, said Lisa Luten, a spokeswoman of the school system. The review was based on community feedback requested by the district following the killing of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Luten said.
“This is not a new conversation for us,” she said. “That certainly brought it back to light.”
Ma, from Charlotte, North Carolina, writes about education and justice for AP’s Race and Ethnicity team. Follow her on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/anniema15
The Associated Press’s coverage of race and ethnicity issues is supported in part by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.
https://www.local10.com/news/national/2022/06/05/minority-students-push-back-on-calls-for-police-in-schools/ Colored students are resisting police calls in schools