Student activists met with Education Secretary Arne Duncan to ask him to keep police out of schools and to explore other ways to enhance school safety instead. Following Newtown, School Resource Officers (SROs) have been viewed as one way to keep a school safer and serve as a protection against mass shootings, but these students argued otherwise.
“Unfortunately, some of the early reactions, rooted in the well-intentioned desire to do something swiftly to protect young people, revolved around placing more security and more guns in schools,” the Alliance for Educational Justice, the Dignity in Schools Campaign and Padres y Jovenes Unidos (Parents & Youth United), wrote in a joint issue brief titled Police in Schools Are Not the Answer to the Newtown Shooting. The students who met with Duncan represented those organizations.
They argued police presence fuels the ‘school to prison pipeline,’ often leading to ‘extreme discipline’ that results in more students in the juvenile justice system. In the brief they pointed to Hartford as one example: in 2006 and 2007, there were 86 school-based arrests of primary grade students were arrested, and 13 of them were in third grade or younger. They also cited statistics indicating minority students are more likely to experience school-based arrests: in West Hartford the same year, Black and Latino students made up 25 percent of the population but accounted for 63 percent of the arrests.
The students urged Duncan to pursue ‘positive behavior interventions’ by increasing presence of school counselors, social workers and psychologists rather than police.