LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

OPINION: JCPS is right to remove police officers from schools

Public schools need resources, not resource officers


The Jefferson County school board made the right decision.

Police do not belong in schools.

In a society in which backpacks are bulletproof, schools resemble prisons, black children are seen as violent and disruptive, and mental illness carries a violent stigma, removing the good guys with guns may seem shocking.

In a country with 5% of the world's population but nearly 25% of its prisoners, and where spending on incarceration has increased at triple the rate of spending for public education, divesting from punitive practices may be unsettling.

In a school district where two years ago 276 students were arrested -- three-fourths of them black students who made up less than half of the district's population -- removing law enforcement may sound outrageous.

Who is going to be in place to round up and send all these unwanted thugs away? Who is going to stop these mentally ill lone wolf school shooters? The schools are defenseless!

As America has taught us, we must ignore the fact that black children misbehave at the same rate of white children, ignore the fact that the vast majority of people with mental health problems are no more likely to be violent than anyone else, and instead rely on our deeply rooted prejudices and biases that provide us safety, comfort and justification for inequitable polices.

As a student and recent graduate of Jefferson County Public Schools, I must speak out against any inequitable school policy, especially one that reinforces racist ideas and produces violent outcomes like the school-to-prison pipeline -- a national trend of children (mostly of color) being funneled out of public schools and into criminal justice systems. A trend that should have never existed.

As students, we deserve a pipeline to higher education, a pipeline to successful careers, not one to an unjust, inhumane criminal justice system. Not one that steals our childhood.

Looking at the lack of funding, the presence of police, the racial makeup of administration and staff, the whitewashed curriculum, and the "achievement gap," America's public school system appears to hurt, not help, students of color.

We can see how the racial wealth gap, residential segregation and racial trauma further hinder students of color inside the classroom. But the needless contact with the criminal justice system is what's taking students out of the classroom and straight into a pipeline of incarceration.

Children of color are more likely to be apprehended by school resource officers, and they also receive harsher punishment for their actions, which is usually minor misconduct. Black students are also nearly four times as likely to be suspended than white students, and the disparity is worse if you're black with a learning disability.

Those disparities can be attributed to inequitable zero-tolerance policies and punitive school disciplinary practices. And with local police inside the schools, black children are subject to traumatizing surveillance and control that maintains their contact with the justice system.

JCPS board members Chris Kolb and Corrie Shull have repeatedly explained research proves school police do not improve school safety. School police won't stop school shootings. School police can make schools more dangerous. And school police have the worst effect on students of color.

Data shows that in 2015-16, there were almost 2 million students in schools with police but no counselors. Three million students in schools with police but no nurses. Six million in schools with police but no school psychologists. Ten million in schools with police but no social workers.

Despite the research and evidence showing that having police in schools is more detrimental than helpful for students, it seems decision-makers will always choose fear, personal interest or prejudice over reason and logic.

Yes, local gun violence and mass shootings pose a threat to students, and students carry that fear of being shot with them into the classroom. But when studies show schools are among the safest places for kids to be, why add an armed uniform officer who may bring another level of terror and trauma to your most vulnerable students? Especially if your schools aren't equipped with the resources to help them cope.

Why underfund our education and mental health but consistently send dollars toward our incarceration and surveillance in the name of security?

A secure school is not secure because of an armed uniformed officer. A secure school is one that works to end the stigma surrounding mental health, end the stereotype of black youth criminality and one that reverses a climate dominated by bullying, racial microaggressions and sexual misconduct.

A secure school addresses the whitewashing of history, it addresses a toxic culture of masculinity, it addresses the social norms of violence that motivate a student to pick up a gun.

A secure school has counselors, social workers, psychiatrists and restorative justice practices and polices. A secure school does not have police.

If we really want students to feel safe and secure in their learning environment, we must address the root causes of violence, which include inequity, indifference and inaction.

There are proven solutions to get where we want to be, but adding school police is not one of them.