DRC Statement Opposing School Police on School Campuses

Disability Rights California (DRC) urges Sacramento City Unified School District to defund school police and reinvest those funds into social supports and mental health services for students with disabilities and into providing teachers and staff with mandatory, ongoing anti-racism and implicit bias trainings.

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DRC Statement Opposing School Police on School Campuses

Disability Rights California (DRC) stands with communities that are organizing across California to demand that school districts defund school police and reinvest those funds into social supports and mental health services for students with disabilities and into providing teachers and staff with mandatory, ongoing anti-racism and implicit bias trainings.

DRC strongly believes that police have no place in schools. The presence of officers on school campuses perpetuates the criminalization, traumatization, and brutalization of students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities. Minor disciplinary issues, including non-violent incidents, can and should be handled by qualified and trained counselors or other staff – not school police. Unfortunately, around 14 million students in the United States currently attend schools patrolled by police but entirely lacking in counselors, nurses, psychologists, or social workers.1 The funding needlessly spent on school police would better serve student success, wellbeing, and safety if reinvested in social supports and mental health services for students with disabilities and mandatory, ongoing anti-racism and implicit bias trainings for school district teachers and staff, so that they can better serve students. 

In fact, the Black Male Institute’s recent study of the Los Angeles Unified School District revealed one-quarter of all critical incidents in that district involved students experiencing suicidal ideations.2 Police simply do not have the requisite expertise to respond to these crises. Their presence escalates these situations and further traumatizes Black students in crisis, who should instead be supported by trained therapists. The underinvestment in mental health supports contributes to the disparities that students of color and students with disabilities experience in police contact and referrals. Now more than ever, students need these supports, as they face the trauma of the COVID-19 pandemic and the generational trauma of systemic racism.

Additionally, school police perpetuate the school to prison pipeline and create a dangerous school environment for students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities.3 In our work across California, we have seen school police subject students with disabilities to a litany of abuses. In particular, Black students with disabilities are frequently tackled, handcuffed, and arrested for experiencing mental health crises or exhibiting disability-related behaviors that pose no safety threat.

Across California, students with disabilities are three times more likely to be arrested than their non-disabled peers.4 Students with disabilities account for one-quarter of students referred to law enforcement and more than two-thirds of all students placed in seclusion, involuntary confinement, or physical restraint at school.5 The majority of police enforcement on school campuses is in response to behavioral or minor offenses that pose no safety threat, and that enforcement disproportionately targets students of color, low-income students, LGBTQIA+ students, and students with disabilities.6 Students with multiple, intersecting marginalized identities are often most at risk of police contact and violence.7

DRC demands school districts across California meet this critical moment by defunding school police and removing them from campuses and putting a stop to the criminalization and abuse of students with disabilities, particularly Black students with disabilities. Schools must be a safe environment for all students, and police have no place in schools.

 
 

1 Amir Whitaker et al., Cops and No Counselors: How the Lack of School Mental Health Staff Is Harming Students, American Civil Liberties Union, 4, https://www.aclu.org/report/cops-and-no-counselors. – (Return to main document)

2 Elianny C. Edwards, Earl J. Edwards, Tyrone Howards, and the Black Male Institute Lab, Keeping Students Safe in Los Angeles: An Analysis of LAUSD School Incident Reports & Funding, University of California, Los Angeles Black Male Institute, 2020. – (Return to main document)

3 Anya Kamenetz, Why There's A Push To Get Police Out Of Schools, National Public Radio, June 23, 2020, https://www.npr.org/2020/06/23/881608999/why-theres-a-push-to-get-police-out-of-schools. – (Return to main document)

4 Linnea Nelson, Victor Leung and Jessica Cobb, The Right to Remain a Student: How California School Policies Fail to Protect and Serve, American Civil Liberties Union, 3 (October 2016), https://www.aclunc.org/docs/20161019-the_right_to_remain_a_student-aclu_california_0.pdf. – (Return to main document)

5 Id. at 17. – (Return to main document)

6 Id. at 7. – (Return to main document)

7 David Perry, Police killings: the price of being disabled and black in America, The Guardian, June 22, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/22/police-killings-disabled-black-people-mental-illness. – (Return to main document)