(COMMON DREAMS) Evie Blad, March 11, 2019
As policymakers call for more school police in response to safety concerns, a new analysis of federal data shows that many students don’t have access to other kinds of staff necessary for safety and support—staff like school nurses, social workers, and psychologists.
As a result of safety discussions that focus on shootings, rather than the broader range of safety concerns and student needs, “schools are under-resourced and students are overcriminalized,” says the report, released Monday by the ACLU. The analysis also found that disproportionately high arrest rates for students of color and students with disabilities are continuing, while there was a 17 percent growth in school-based referrals to law enforcement from 2013-14 to 2015-16.
“The consequences for these funding decisions fall on the most vulnerable students,” the report says.”Teachers are often not equipped to deal with the special needs posed by children with disabilities. Furthermore, historically marginalized students, such as students of color, may attend schools with fewer resources and supports. When there are no other behavioral resources at hand, some teachers request help from law enforcement. This results in an increased criminalization of our youth: we found that schools with police reported 3.5 times as many arrests as schools without police.”
The analysis comes at a time of high concern about student mental health. The suicide rate among children ages 10 to 17 increased by 70 percent between 2006 and 2016, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show.
Using the most recent federal data, collected by the U.S. Department of Education in 2015-16, the ACLU analysis found that:
- 1.7 million students are in schools with police but no counselors.
- 3 million students are in schools with police but no nurses.
- 6 million students are in schools with police but no school psychologists.
- 10 million students are in schools with police but no social workers.
The analysis also provides a state-by-state breakdown of staffing levels for each of those positions, showing how far they diverge from the recommendations of professional associations that represent various student support staff.