Counselors, Not Cops

Yesterday, the Dignity in Schools Campaign released a policy platform that calls for the end of police presence in schools.

“Counselors, not cops.” That’s the primary message of a policy platform released yesterday by Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), a national coalition (of which the Southern Poverty Law Center is a member) committed to ending school pushout and the school-to-prison pipeline. The platform, Counselors Not Cops: Ending the Regular Presence of Law Enforcement in Schools, offers three core recommendations for schools, districts, states and federal-level policymakers.

  1. End the regular presence of law enforcement in schools.
  2. Create safe schools through positive safety and discipline measures.
  3. Restrict the role of law enforcement officers who are called into schools.

This is a must-read document for educators, especially those who work at schools where school resource offers (SROs) or other sworn law officers are a daily presence. For most schools that staff SROs, the decision to have a security presence in the building rests on the good intention of keeping students safe. In practice, however, these security measures are often harmful to student wellbeing, particularly in schools with zero-tolerance discipline policies. In the words of DSC, “Police and SROs can contribute to a criminalizing, unwelcoming and otherwise unsafe environment in schools.” Research also shows that school-based policing disproportionally impacts students of color and students with disabilities. And, most significant, as DSC highlights: “There is no reliable research demonstrating that SROs keep schools safe.” 

For all these reasons, Teaching Tolerance is committed to removing cops from schools. If your school or district is ready to take action and build greater awareness around this issue, we recommend looking over materials such as DSC’s Model Code on Education and Dignity and TT’s “The School-to-Prison Pipeline,” Code of Conduct and “False Sense of Security.” If you’re thinking about sharing the core recommendations from Counselors Not Cops with colleagues, consider sending them a link to this interactive educational webpage.

And if you’re interested in participating in direct action around the issues of school pushout and school-based policing, DSC is organizing its seventh annual National Week for Action Against School Pushout. It’s set for October 15-23. The actions will focus on five demands, the first of which is to move funding from school-based policing to counselors, peace builders and positive discipline models. More information about the week of action and the demands can be found here.

Lindberg is a writer and associate editor for Teaching Tolerance.

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