Washington just advised police not to discipline students in school — Here’s why that doesn’t go far enough

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Friday, September 9, 2016, Nancy Treviño, Hechinger Report 

Providing recommendations for the role of police in schools, the U.S. Justice and Education Departments have released the “Safe School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect ‘SECURe’ State and Local Policy Rubric.”

As part of the national Dignity in Schools Campaign, we support aspects of the Sept. 8 guidance, which recommend that School Resource Officers should not administer discipline in schools.

However, the recommendations themselves do not go far enough to provide clear guidelines to prohibit the involvement of SROs in school discipline and to protect students’ rights.

Dignity in Schools is a coalition working to create safe and positive school climates that do not criminalize our young people.

The “Dear Colleague” letter from the Dept. of Justice states that SROs can “fill critical roles as mentors and educators.”

This suggestion blurs the lines between the role of law enforcement, educators and counselors in schools, putting students at risk. Youth are routinely criminalized by the presence of police in schools. Providing additional training for SROs does not get to the root causes of bodies being policed and schools being treated as institutions modeled after prisons.

Communities across the country have been actively organizing for decades to push back against the policing of schools and demand real action towards creating safer school climates.

The necessary solution is for school districts to redirect funding from school police towards hiring and training restorative justice practitioners, counselors, social workers and peace builders.

As a coalition of over 100 organizations in 27 states, comprised of students and parents directly implicated by harsh school discipline practices and the policing of our schools, Dignity in Schools urges the Departments of Education and Justice to ensure that all young people have access to a quality education where they can learn and thrive without the excessive presence of police in schools.