Young People Deserve Police-Free Schools.

AuthorFernandez, Maria C.

In 2015, a student-recorded video of the #AssaultatSpringValley went viral; it shows Shakara, a sixteen-year-old Black girl from Columbia, South Carolina, being placed in a headlock, flipped over in her desk chair, then dragged and thrown across her classroom by a school police officer. The student who recorded the video, Niya, was arrested; the cop who assaulted Shakara, Ben Fields, was not charged.

After this assault, young people came together to seek to end the criminalization and abuse of students of color, and support those young people who have experienced police violence firsthand. They wrote letters to the students, Niya and Shakara. They modeled the world they would like to see, a world without police. When young people and organizers talk about police-free schools, they are fighting for a world that does not yet exist. They're fighting to dismande school policing infrastructure, culture, and practice, to end school militarization and surveillance, and to build a new, liberatory education system.

We can't build the future our students deserve through modest reforms. Instead, we must heed their calls to transform safety in our schools through resources that meet students' needs. And that includes getting rid of the police.

The police murder of George Floyd forced communities to grapple with the fact that the police who target, terrorize, and kill Black and brown people on the streets are the same police in schools with our children. Over the past year, at least thirty-five school districts have taken steps to end policing in their hallways.

And federal legislation has been introduced to end federal funding of police in schools. It's called the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act.

Last summer, as school districts from Minneapolis to Denver to Oakland to Phoenix took action to remove police from schools, the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) responded with calls for "rigorous training" and "appropriate use" of police in schools.

But years of research and lived experiences of students show that school police do not make students safe; in fact, they make students less safe, even when certain measures have been adopted to try to increase their training or limit their roles, tactics, and responsibilities.

NASRO is deploying alarmist rhetoric about "potential violence" to justify sustained police presence in our schools; it claims the "unprecedented break" caused by the pandemic could exacerbate violence...

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