excerpted from: Janel George, Populating the Pipeline: School Policing and the Persistence of the School-to-prison Pipeline, 40 Nova Law Review 493 (Spring, 2016)(246 Footnotes)(Full Document)
This Article examines the establishment, expansion, and current role of police in schools and how police presence perpetuates the racial profiling, discriminatory disciplining, and incarcerating of children of color. Despite research showing that police presence in schools increases the likelihood of early involvement of youth of color in the juvenile justice system, and in resulting compromised life outcomes, police continue to be a fixture in many low-income districts and districts predominantly populated by students of color. In addition, policing of youth of color in our nation's public schools often mirrors the discriminatory racial profiling and excessive force employed by police against people of color in our nation's major cities--most saliently exemplified in police response to protests in Baltimore and Ferguson. These discriminatory school policing encounters have garnered increased media attention and public outrage--including incidents of escalated interactions between students of color and school police in South Carolina and Texas victims of this police brutality in our schools have found little, if any, successful legal redress. For example, the federal government continues to funnel federal funds to further embed the practice of police in public schools with less funding directed towards alternatives, like restorative practices, despite the government's own acknowledgment of the pervasiveness of racially discriminatory discipline practices in our nation's public schools. This has incentivized more states and school districts to continue to place police in public schools with devastating consequences for children of color and low-income children who are disproportionately targeted for referral and arrest by police in schools. The resulting negative outcomes, including early involvement with the juvenile justice system and higher dropout rates, effectively undermine equal educational opportunities for impacted students and exacerbate educational inequalities.
Action must be taken to dismantle and disrupt the entrenched systems and incentives that keep police in public schools. Alternatives to police presence and exclusionary and punitive discipline practices--like suspensions and expulsions--hold the promise of promoting school safety and better outcomes for all students. But, implementation of alternative discipline practices and eliminating police presence in public schools is predicated on the political will of educational decision-makers at all levels--federal, state, and local-- and reversing financial incentives that keep police in public schools. The recently-enacted Every Student Succeeds Act (“ESSA”) provides federal funds for discipline alternatives, like restorative practices and schoolwide positive behavioral interventions and supports (“SWPBIS”), but states and school districts must choose to target funding for these alternatives. The task of encouraging states and districts to fund alternative discipline programs has fallen to community advocates, and garnering support for alternatives has been an uphill battle. Policymakers have largely ignored the collateral impact of police in schools on the most marginalized students who are viewed as dispensable and responsible for the negative outcomes that they experience due to police presence in schools. Coalitions like the Dignity in Schools Campaign have demanded the removal of police from schools and implementation of discipline alternatives. In fact, grassroots advocacy to limit the role of police in schools has shown the most promise--including the establishment of a School Climate Bill of Rights and Memoranda of Understanding in the Los Angeles Unified School District, a victory secured through the advocacy of the Labor Community Strategy Center and other community-based organizations--in garnering similar victories around the country that have resulted in limiting police involvement in routine discipline matters.
Part II of this Article examines the roots of discriminatory discipline practices in our nation's history of racial segregation in education and the biases that justify the relegation of African American students and other marginalized students to inferior educational opportunities. This Section also examines the emergence of zero tolerance policies and surveillance in schools.
Part III examines how police presence in schools further facilitates the criminalization of students of color and their resulting involvement in the juvenile justice system, as well as the collateral consequences they experience due to the criminalization of minor misbehavior. The Section also examines how targeted federal funding has further embedded and influenced the placement of police in schools. Additionally, this Section examines excessive use of force by police in schools, contextualizing such violence within broader violence against people of color by law enforcement and how militarization of school police worsen school climates.
Finally, this Article exposes the incentive behind the school-to-prison pipeline as a profit driver of the prison-industrial complex and examines alternatives to incarcerating children of color.
Most importantly, this Article insists that we must end the practice of policing in public schools and instead, support and foster evidence-based alternative discipline practices to promote better outcomes for all students, as well as foster positive and inclusive school climates. We must examine the motives behind the placement of police in schools, including profit incentives for law enforcement and prison facilities that stand to benefit so long as the school-to-prison pipeline continues to be populated. We must recognize the moral imperative that demands we end harmful and profit-motivated practices that are predicated on the backs and futures of our nation's most promising children and instead, ensure that schools perform the function of providing equal and quality educational opportunities for all of our nation's children.