Report: Invest COVID Funds to Close School-to-Prison Pipeline
Tuesday, September 28, 2021
ARLINGTON, Va. -- As a Northern Virginia school system transitions away from using police officers in schools, a new report suggests COVID stimulus funding offers a unique opportunity to do it on a national scale and close what they call the "school-to-prison pipeline."
Racial equity protests last year put a spotlight on the use of police officers in Arlington Public Schools, which some said often resulted in counterproductive arrests for normal youth misbehavior.
Jeanette Allen, director of administrative services for the school system, said the protests spurred the school board to reevaluate the use of resource officers and then relocate them off-site this year, in a new Youth Outreach Unit.
"There's not many other districts who have decided to not only remove them from the schools, but still maintain a relationship," Allen noted. "I'm excited about the new opportunity and finding a new way in which students do have positive interactions with law enforcement and not necessarily on a daily basis."
The Sentencing Project's report analyzed the learning loss and disengagement of students during the pandemic, noting schools will likely see elevated behavior as kids get used to learning in person again.
It urged schools and communities to invest in new approaches, as in Arlington, to keep children out of jail, in schools and on track for success.
Nate Balis, director of the juvenile justice strategy group for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which partners with the Sentencing Project, said federal stimulus funding for education, totaling more than $120 billion, offers an unprecedented chance to launch services outside of law enforcement to help vulnerable children.
"There's opportunities for funding that have never been there before," Balis explained. "Where we can support young people and their families through tutoring and mentoring or from community programs that may not exist in those districts right now."
He pointed out using alternatives to help with misbehavior, such as mental-health professionals or counselors, would especially benefit Black and Latino students, who the report said are disproportionately impacted by the use of school police officers.
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