Article written by Whitney Bunts for CLASP
Following the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter Movement in response to the death of George Floyd, localities are considering adopting police-free schools in response to calls to divest resources from law enforcement, invest in the well being of communities, and protect young Black people. Currently, around 43% of US schools have school resource officers (law enforcement officers whose primary duty is to protect schools) and in many cases these officers are placed in schools with large populations of Black and POC students. Police officers in schools lead students to feel an increased sense of anxiety, alienation, mistrust between peers and to form adversarial relationships with school officials. Furthermore, police presence in schools creates a hostile learning environment and aids in the school-to-prison pipeline which funnels Black and Brown youth into the criminal justice system.
Instead of continuing policing in schools, this article calls for the expansion of School-based mental health (SBMH) services. Currently, these services offered in schools are minimal and do not meet the recommended ratios of student to mental health professional. In addition to increasing the number of mental health providers in schools, district leaders can build school-wide capacity to meet students’ mental health needs, including trainings on trauma-informed care, racial equity, and introducing preventative interventions that support students’ social emotional development and coping skills.
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