Community Advocates Urge End to Police Presence in IN Schools
Tuesday, August 24, 2021
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- As students across Indiana begin the new school year, some communities are reevaluating the need for police officers in schools.
In recent decades, the percentage of schools across the nation with a police presence on campus increased from less than 1% to nearly 60%.
Indiana doesn't disclose the numbers of police officers in schools, but in the last few years, between 900 and 1,200 students were arrested on school property.
Darryl Heller, director of the South Bend Civil Rights Heritage Center and assistant professor of women's and gender studies at Indiana University-South Bend, pointed to data that show Black students are arrested at more than twice the rate of white students.
"We know that Black and brown students will get punished harsher and more frequently for exactly the same behaviors that white students do," Heller observed. "So, that disparity is a deep cause of concern."
He added the disparity often leads to criminalizing behaviors that are really just kids acting up. He urged the South Bend School District to remove its five School Resource Officers. In Heller's view, a new agreement between the district and police department is long overdue, and could be an opportunity to put resources to better use.
Heller argued community members who want officers in schools may think it improves student safety, but research shows otherwise. He would like to see the current funding for School Resource Officers go instead toward more nurses and counselors on campuses.
"We're willing to spend millions of dollars a year to pay police to be in our schools, when we could actually be using that money to pay for more social workers, or more restorative justice practitioners or others, who I think would make our environment in schools much safer than a mere police presence," Heller contended.
A bill in Congress, the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, would prohibit the use of federal funds for law enforcement officers in schools. Nationwide, more than 14 million students attend schools that have police officers on duty.
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