June 1, 2020 – In response to the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, the Minneapolis Board of Education will consider a resolution to end the district’s contract with the Minneapolis Police Department for the services of school resource officers. The school district reportedly spends $1 million to hire 11 officers who police students in the district. The effort to end the contract follows protests against police brutality by thousands across the country.
The Minneapolis Board of Education president noted the many calls and emails the board received from families and students urging an end to policing in schools. The Minneapolis Federation of Teachers and Education Support Professionals announced its support for the resolution, citing the lack of shared values between the school district and police department and advocating reprioritizing those funds for mental health and educational services for schools.
Research shows that having police officers in schools can be harmful for students and can destabilize school climates. Many students and families report feeling less safe with officers in their schools. Several studies show that increases in the presence of police officers in schools are associated with decreases in student test scores, graduation rates and college enrollment (Weisburst, 2019; Legewie & Fagan, 2018).
Students of color, students with disabilities and LGBTQ students are more likely to have contact with school police than their peers, even though they are not more likely to misbehave. In 2015-16, Black students made up 15% of the U.S. K-12 student population but accounted for 31% of all school-related arrests and law enforcement referrals (Office for Civil Rights, 2018). In Texas, Black students made up 13% of the student population but accounted for 22% of school-based arrests, 40% of use of force incidents in schools, and 32% of tickets issued in schools from 2011 to 2015 (Texas Appleseed & Texans Care for Children, 2017).
Contact with school police pushes students into the school-to-prison pipeline, increasing the likelihood of grade retention, dropout rates and future contact with the justice system. When schools rely on police officers to discipline students, they miss an opportunity to build strong relationships and support systems between students and other adults on campus like teachers, counselors and social workers (Wilson, 2020).
The Minneapolis Board of Education should adopt its resolution. Ending police involvement in schools will protect students and school staff and help create stronger, safer school climates.
• We call on all other school districts to end their contracts with law enforcement agencies and disband in-district policing and security departments that place police officers in schools.
• We call on education policymakers to stop spending resources on school policing and unnecessary security measures and instead invest those funds in counselors, social workers and educational supports for students. More than 14 million students attend schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist or social worker for students.
• We call on all teacher unions and coalitions to explicitly oppose the presence of police officers in schools.
• We call on students, families, other advocates, and anyone else who cares about protecting students in schools to contact your local and state education leaders and urge them to divest from school policing, security and surveillance measures that harm students.
Now, more than ever, policymakers, districts, schools, families, young people and other advocates must unite to ensure safe, excellent and equitable schools for all students.
Updated June 2, 2020, to add a link to the Resolution to Terminate the Contract for Services with the Minneapolis Police Department for the Services of School Resource Officers
Legewie, J., & Fagan, J. (Aug. 29, 2018). Aggressive Policing and the Educational Performance of Minority Youth, SocArXiv.
Office for Civil Rights. (2018). 2015-2016 Civil Rights Data Collection: School Climate and Safety. U.S. Department of Education.
Texas Appleseed and Texans Care for Children. (2017). Dangerous Discipline: How Texas Schools are Relying on Law Enforcement, Courts, and Juvenile Probation to Discipline Students. Austin, Texas.
Weisburst, E.K. (February 2019). Patrolling Public Schools: The Impact of Funding for School Police on Student Discipline and Long-term Education Outcomes, Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
Wilson, T. (February 2020). At What Cost? A Review of School Police Funding and Accountability Across the U.S. South, IDRA Newsletter.