IDRA Condemns Excessive Police Violence in Osceola County, Florida, and Calls for Supporting Black Students in Schools
(February 3, 2021) Like others, IDRA staff watched in horror and revulsion the video of yet another student experiencing violence at the hands of police, this time in Osceola County, Florida. Unfortunately, these incidents are far too common in schools, and often Black students are on the receiving end of these despicable acts.
IDRA condemns in the strongest possible terms the police actions depicted in the Osceola County video. All officers involved in this incident should be removed from their positions and barred from working with students in the future.
Further, we condemn all police violence that occurs against young people, including against Black children, across the country. One of the most recent events involved a 9-year-old girl who was in crisis was then handcuffed and pepper-sprayed by police officers in Rochester, New York. This violence is symptomatic of larger, systemic racial justice issues that manifest in communities, including in schools.
When asked about the student’s well-being by reporters at the news conference about the incident, Osceola County Sherriff Marcos López stated that the “juvenile is fine.” We refuse to believe that this is true, for this student and for all Black students who are brutalized by police at school. Black students are not “fine” when thrown to the ground with their hands behind their back and their heads bouncing off concrete. Black students are not “fine” when witnessing their peers brutalized while they are forced to stand by powerless and watch. Black students are not “fine” when their schools are over-policed and over-surveilled in contrast to schools in non-Black neighborhoods. None of this can remotely be characterized as “fine.”
Therefore, IDRA calls on education leaders everywhere to prevent these traumatic experiences from occurring by radically shifting the relationship that schools have with law enforcement.
An estimated 14 million students are in schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist or social worker for students.
To ensure Black students have the opportunity to learn in the safest environment possible, IDRA believes that police officers should never be a regular presence inside school buildings. Schools should redirect the funds they spend on policing schools toward productive, culturally-sustaining supports.
IDRA offers the following recommendations for education leaders, policymakers and communities to ensure safe and culturally-sustaining schools for all students (Wilson, 2020).
- Invest in effective research-based programs that promote safe school climates, such as restorative practices, ethnic studies courses, culturally-sustaining educational practices, and conflict resolution. All teachers, and administrators, and staff should be trained in these programs and should implement them with students regularly.
- Invest in personnel, like school psychologists, social workers and counselors, who create safer, stronger schools and can safely address the needs of adults and students in the school community. Ensure student-to-counselor ratios meet the 250:1 standard recommended by professional associations.
- Develop clear policies specifying that police officers should not be called to schools to handle issues that can and should be handled by well-trained staff.
- Require yearly, state-level data collection about policing activities in every school district, disaggregated by campus, race, gender, offense type and responses used.
- Create systems of accountability that enable parents, teachers, students and communities to be involved in school governance, including discipline-related issues.
- Prohibit the use of tasers, pepper spray, weapons, restraints and corporal punishment in schools.
Wilson, T. (February 2020). At What Cost? A Review of School Police Funding and Accountability Across the U.S. South, IDRA Newsletter.
IDRA. (June 5, 2020). IDRA Statement in Support of Black Lives (English), (Español). Learning Goes On.