REPORT: Strategies for Protecting Youth of Color From Disparate School Policing

By Kenrya Rankin Jun 08, 2017

A new report from the National Education Policy Center examines how zero-tolerance discipline policies in schools negatively impact students of color—and offers several recommendations for protecting youth from state sanctioned violence.

“Law and Order in School and Society: How Discipline and Policing Policies Harm Students of Color, and What We Can Do About It” was released today (June 8). It details how federal, state and local policies have led to the disproportionate suspension and expulsion rates that plague students of color, and links those policies to ones that put the same youth at increased risk for police violence.

“The violence and trauma inflicted upon students of color is sometimes overt and direct. That’s what we experience with police shootings of young, unarmed people of color, which are immediate, shocking and brutal, as are disproportional police stops and arrests of people of color,” Janelle Scott, study co-author and associate professor of education at the University of California, Berkeley, said in a press release. “[But] ongoing, sustained traumas experienced by children in our schools are also brutal.”

The organization offered eight strategies for remedying those issues. The local-level recommendations from the report:

  1. Develop systematic communication and planning between municipalities and school districts, including integrated city and school policies on policing, housing, transportation and racial disparity. While this kind of municipal coordination can be challenging, cities with mayoral control of schools, such as Chicago and New York, are in a unique position to pilot such an effort.
  2. Redirect funds currently spent on school resource officers to expenditures shown to improve student engagement and social connectivity, including increasing the number of guidance counselors, advanced-level and enrichment courses, socio-emotional learning curricula and high-quality extracurricular activities.
  3. Invest in the creation or support of racially and socioeconomically integrated schools.
  4. Integrate community-based policing programs with school restorative and transformative justice initiatives to shift the emphasis from discipline and punishment toward capacity building, relationship building, and positive behavioral interventions and supports.

State-level recommendations:

  1. Require teachers, school leaders and all police/security staff to receive intensive preparation, trauma-informed professional development, and ongoing training on the causes of, and remedies for, racial inequality within and outside of school.
  2. Require reporting of in-school and out-of-school suspensions and expulsions for charter schools and traditional public schools, disaggregated by race and gender.
  3. Develop interventions for schools with racially identifiable, disproportionate rates of these disciplinary actions. Develop multiple measures of schools’ effectiveness in place of narrowly focused test-based measures. Use these data to develop more positive, supportive interventions aimed at decreasing suspension, expulsion and referral rates.
  4. Invest in “grow your own” teacher preparation and/or residency programs that help to develop, support, and retain teachers of color and teachers committed to equitable educational practices. Create teacher-police collaborative networks to develop positive supports for students of color within and outside of schools. An untapped resource, paraprofessionals in schools, who often come from the very communities in which they work, could be offered a career ladder.

Read the full report here.