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6/22/2020 Do Police Officers Make Schools Safer or More Dangerous? – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/us/schools-police-resource-officers.html 1/4

Do Police Officers Make Schools Safer or More Dangerous?School resource officers were supposed to prevent mass shootings and juvenile crime. But some schools are eliminating them amid aclamor from students after George Floyd s̓ death.

By Dana Goldstein

June 12, 2020

The national reckoning over police violence has spread to schools, with several districts choosing in recent days to sever theirrelationships with local police departments out of concern that the officers patrolling their hallways represent more of a threat than aform of protection.

School districts in Minneapolis, Seattle and Portland, Ore., have all promised to remove officers, with the Seattle superintendent sayingthe presence of armed police officers “prohibits many students and staff from feeling fully safe.” In Oakland, Calif., leaders expressedsupport on Wednesday for eliminating the district’s internal police force, while the Denver Board of Education voted unanimously onThursday to end its police contract.

In Los Angeles and Chicago, two of the country’s three largest school districts, teachers’ unions are pushing to get the police out, showinga willingness to confront another politically powerful, heavily unionized profession.

Some teachers and students, African-Americans in particular, say they consider officers on campus a danger, rather than a bulwarkagainst everything from fights to drug use to mass shootings.

There has been no shortage of episodes to back up their concerns. In Orange County, Fla., in November, a school resource officer wasfired after a video showed him grasping a middle school student’s hair and yanking her head back during an arrest after students foughtnear school grounds. A few weeks later, an officer assigned to a school in Vance County, N.C., lost his job after he repeatedly slammed an11-year-old boy to the ground.

Nadera Powell, 17, said seeing officers in the hallways at Venice High School in Los Angeles sent a clear message to black students likeher: “Don’t get too comfortable, regardless of whether this school is your second home. We have you on watch. We are able to take legalor even physical action against you.”

During student walkouts to protest gun violence and push for climate action over the past two years, some officers blocked students fromleaving school grounds or clashed verbally with protesters, she recalled. At Fremont High School in another part of Los Angeles, wherethe student body is about 90 percent Latino, the police used pepper spray in November to break up a fight.

“All people who are of color here are looked at as a threat,” Ms. Powell said.

For years, activists have called on districts to rein in campus police. They cite data showing that mass shootings like those in Parkland,Fla., or Newtown, Conn., are rare, and that crime on school grounds has generally declined in recent years.

The presence of officers in hallways has a profound impact on students of color and those with disabilities, who, according to severalanalyses and studies, are more likely to be harshly punished for ordinary misbehavior.

Still, efforts to remove school resource officers face the same pushback as a broader national effort to reduce funding for policedepartments: resistance from the police themselves, who are often politically powerful, and concern from some parents and schoolofficials that removing officers could leave schools and students vulnerable.

In Oakland, Jumoke Hinton Hodge, a school board member, said that although she strongly supported the Black Lives Matter movement,she opposed the effort to eliminate district police officers. Those officers are better equipped to work with teenagers than are the citypolice, who could be called to schools more often if the district no longer had its own force, she said.

The district’s officers train to prevent school shootings, Ms. Hinton Hodge said, and they respond to students who have reported sexualabuse or are at risk of suicide. The proposal to eliminate the force felt rushed, she said, and would leave the district without an adequatesafety plan.

“Are you here for the long haul, about a movement?” she asked. “Or are you in a moment?”

In New York City last weekend, hundreds of teachers and students marched in a protest calling for the police to be removed from schoolsand replaced by a new crop of guidance counselors and social workers. Mayor Bill de Blasio committed to diverting some of the PoliceDepartment’s funding to social services for children, but has so far not shown a willingness to significantly reduce police presence in

6/22/2020 Do Police Officers Make Schools Safer or More Dangerous? – The New York Times

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Mayor Lori Lightfoot of Chicago has rejected calls from the teachers’ union and others to remove officers from schools, saying they areneeded to provide security.

Both mayors control their city’s school systems. It is districts with elected school boards, which are more independent from other localgovernment agencies, that are currently driving the wave of change.

Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, said he was disappointed by attempts to linkschool policing to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. He called Mr. Floyd’s death during an arrest “the most horrific police abusesituation I’ve seen in my career.”

Well-trained school resource officers operate more like counselors and educators, Mr. Canady said, working with students to defuse peerconflict and address issues such as drug and alcohol use. He suggested that disproportionate discipline and arrest rates for students ofcolor and those with disabilities could be driven by the actions of police officers coming off the street to respond to one-off calls fromschools, or by campus officers who lack adequate training in concepts such as implicit bias.

“The message to the districts has to be, ʻDon’t throw the baby out with the bath water,’” Mr. Canady said.

But as schools face significant budget cuts brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, some students, educators and policymakers say itwould be wiser to hire psychologists to provide counseling and nurses to advise students on drugs and alcohol, instead of training policeofficers to do such tasks.

In Prince George’s County, Md., outside of Washington, Joshua Omolola, 18, has marched to protest the killing of Mr. Floyd. Now, as thestudent member of the Board of Education, he is supporting a proposal to remove police officers from the county’s schools, whosestudents are predominantly black and Hispanic.

The millions the county spends annually on school policing should be reallocated to mental health services, Mr. Omolola argued, to treatthe root causes of student behavioral problems.

Race and Policing ›

Recent Changes Sparked by the Protests

Updated June 22, 2020

In New York, the City Council passed a bill that for the first time will require thepolice to reveal information about their arsenal of surveillance tools, some ofwhich may have been used in recent days at protests in New York. Mayor Billde Blasio and police officials have previously opposed the bill, but changingcourse this week, the mayor said he was now inclined to sign it.

President Trump signed an executive to encourage changes in policing,including new restrictions on chokeholds. But the order will have littleimmediate impact, and does not address calls for broader action and a newfocus on racism.

6/22/2020 Do Police Officers Make Schools Safer or More Dangerous? – The New York Times

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Police departments have typically responded to calls from school employees, but the everyday presence of officers in hallways did notbecome widespread until the 1990s. That was when concern over mass shootings, drug abuse and juvenile crime led federal and stateofficials to offer local districts money to hire officers and purchase law enforcement equipment, such as metal detectors.

By the 2013-14 school year, two-thirds of high school students, 45 percent of middle schoolers and 19 percent of elementary schoolstudents attended a school with a police officer, according to a 2018 report from the Urban Institute. Majority black and Hispanic schoolsare more likely to have officers on campus than majority white schools.

But when the Congressional Research Service reported on the effectiveness of school resource officers in 2013, it concluded that there waslittle rigorous research showing a connection between the presence of police officers in schools and changes in crime or student disciplinerates.

Activists who have worked for years to remove officers from hallways said they were shocked at the speed with which school districtswere promising significant change after Mr. Floyd’s death. The coming weeks may equal the impact of a decade’s worth of incrementalreforms, according to Jasmine Dellafosse, an organizer in Stockton, Calif., east of San Francisco, with the Gathering for Justice, anonprofit group.

After the A.C.L.U. Foundation of Northern California and the state Department of Justice investigated harsh discipline practices inStockton schools, the district police force agreed last year to establish new restrictions on the use of force and on when to arrest students.

Now the school board plans to consider, later this month, a resolution to remove police officers entirely from schools and to reallocatetheir budget to programs such as ethnic studies, counseling and restorative justice.

“There won’t be real change,” Ms. Dellafosse said, “until police are out of the schools.”

Eliza Shapiro and Erica L. Green contributed reporting.

Joshua Omolola, 18, has marched to protest the killing of George Floyd. Now, as the student member of the Board of Education, he is supporting a proposal to removepolice officers from schools in Prince George’s County, Md. Nate Palmer for The New York Times

6/22/2020 Do Police Officers Make Schools Safer or More Dangerous? – The New York Times

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/12/us/schools-police-resource-officers.html 4/4

Dana Goldstein is a national correspondent, writing about how education policies impact families, students and teachers across the country. She is the author of “The TeacherWars: A History of America’s Most Embattled Profession.”

A version of this article appears in print on June 13, 2020, Section A, Page 20 of the New York edition with the headline: Some Districts Remove Police From the Schools, Seeing Them as a Threat

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