STUDY: Nation’s Largest Public Schools Have More Police Than Counselors

By Kenrya Rankin Mar 29, 2016

A new report from education site The 74 unearths data that points at schools that are more concerned with hiring police officers than counselors.

The 74’s Matt Barnum examined public records for the nation’s ten largest school districts to uncover one important statistic: the ratio of counselors to security personnel. What he found sheds light on where the districts—each of which counts students of color as the majority—choose to invest their time and funds. Of the largest five districts, three have more officers than counselors. They are New York City, Chicago and Miami-Dade. When the scope is widened to the top ten, four fall into the same category.

Barnum describes these two staffing categories as follows:

School counselors’ roles vary depending on where they work, but often focus on helping students deal with academic, behavior and social issues. High school counselors play a key role in helping students get into college.

School security can range from uniformed personnel employed by the district to maintain school safety to armed police officers who can make arrests.

Per 1,000 students, New York City has 5.28 security personnel, but just 2.9 counselors (ratio: 0.55 counselors to security). Chicago has 4.21 officers to 2.18 counselors (ratio: 0.52). And Miami has 6.32 officers to 2.28 counselors (ratio: 0.36).


The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights has made it quite clear that students of color—especially Black and Native American students—are disproportionately disciplined for minor offenses in schools, which frequently sets them on a path that leads to imprisonment. A previous study found that schools with more resource officers routinely have higher arrest rates for “disorderly conduct,” an offense that has been used to justify incidents like last year’s #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh.

“I don’t think schools are an oasis from the racial problems that affect the rest of society,” Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s racial justice program told The 74. “It reflects an approach to school discipline and school safety that is ultimately counterproductive…. If there were more emphasis on preventing problems rather than dealing with them when they happen, schools would ultimately be safer and students performance would be better.”

Delve into the full report here.