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Students Push to Limit School Police…

This article originally appeared at Waging Nonviolence and is reposted with permission.

After the Newtown shootings, the urgency to secure schools shot up. California Senator Barbara Boxer floated legislation to deploy the National Guard in districts nationwide; President Obama included grants for “school resource officers” in his since-mothballed gun control proposals; and districts, including Los Angeles, which already has the largest school police force in the country, called for more police or stronger partnerships with local law enforcement.

Across the country, students of color braced for the aftershock. School police are the bedrock of the school-to-prison pipeline, a system that levies harsh punishments for nonviolent behavior and, despite scant evidence of greater infraction, funnels disproportionate numbers of black and Latino students out of school and into court. This system of racialized discipline and punishment feeds off moments of fear like Newtown—from the Reagan-era war on drugs, when zero tolerance discipline was born, to the Columbine shootings, which led schools in Denver to increase student referrals to law enforcement by 71 percent over the next four years.

The most recent police surge is, however, only one part of the story. The commotion over school safety has also opened space for youth organizers to push the conversation in the opposite direction.
Read more: Students Push to Limit School Police After Newtown | The Nation
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Police Entrapment of Students in Schools…

We were honestly stunned to read this story by Kristen Gwynne published in Alternet which is the epitome of the school-to-prison pipeline:

Californians Doug and Catherine Snodgrass are suing their son’s high school for allowing undercover police officers to set up the 17-year-old special-needs student for a drug arrest.

In a video segment on ABC News, they say they were “thrilled” when their son — who has Asperger’s and other disabilities and struggled to make friends — appeared to have instantly made a friend named Daniel.

“He suddenly had this friend who was texting him around the clock,” Doug Snodgrass told ABC News. His son had just recently enrolled at Chaparral High School.

“Daniel,” however, was an undercover cop with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department who ” hounded” the teenager to sell him his prescription medication. When he refused, the undercover cop gave him $20 to buy him weed, and he complied — not realizing the guy he wanted to befriend wanted him behind bars.

Read the rest HERE

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Why Are We Arresting So Many Children?

We really appreciated this article in VICE by Harry Cheadle that asks why we arrest so many children.

From the article:

Kids are dumb. We know this both from research that shows teenagers’ brains are suggestion-prone and vulnerable and from just watching how they act every day. “I’m going to eat a bunch of cinnamon because YouTube told me to, oh no, now I require medical attention because I’m an idiot!” is something teens say all the time. Do you remember what you did when you were a teen? The embarrassingly earnest manifestos you wrote on the bus? The furtive masturbations? The unchecked emotional swings? That night you were too high to drive home and called your mom and then forgot your overelaborate excuse so you just went, “Uhhhhhhmmmmmmmmm”?

Most ex-teens look back on that phase happy to have avoided receiving emotional or physical scars—or dealing with those scars however they can: through therapy, letting time and distance do their work, or wearing long-sleeved shirts pretty much all the time. But we should also be glad that we never got ground down by the gears of the legal system—the cops can be one of the most destructive forces in the lives of young people, coming down on mostly innocent kids just because they made a mistake, or sometimes for no reason at all.

Read the rest.

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A Boston Principal Fires Security Guards, Hires Art Teachers Instead…

This is an excellent report that aired on NBC Nightly News tonight. Watch it!

By Katy Tur, Correspondent, NBC News

ROXBURY, Mass. — The community of Roxbury had high hopes for its newest public school back in 2003. There were art studios, a dance room, even a theater equipped with cushy seating.

A pilot school for grades K-8, Orchard Gardens was built on grand expectations.
But the dream of a school founded in the arts, a school that would give back to the community as it bettered its children, never materialized.

Instead, the dance studio was used for storage and the orchestra’s instruments were locked up and barely touched.
The school was plagued by violence and disorder from the start, and by 2010 it was rank in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts.

That was when Andrew Bott — the sixth principal in seven years — showed up, and everything started to change.
“We got rid of the security guards,” said Bott, who reinvested all the money used for security infrastructure into the arts.

Orchard Gardens a one-time ‘career killer’

In a school notorious for its lack of discipline, where backpacks were prohibited for fear the students would use them to carry weapons, Bott’s bold decision to replace the security guards with art teachers was met with skepticism by those who also questioned why he would choose to lead the troubled school.

“A lot of my colleagues really questioned the decision,” he said. “A lot of people actually would say to me, ‘You realize that Orchard Gardens is a career killer? You know, you don’t want to go to Orchard Gardens.’”

But now, three years later, the school is almost unrecognizable. Brightly colored paintings, essays of achievement, and motivational posters line the halls. The dance studio has been resurrected, along with the band room, and an artists’ studio.

The end result? Orchard Gardens has one of the fastest student improvement rates statewide. And the students — once described as loud and unruly, have found their focus.
“We have our occasional, typical adolescent … problems,” Bott said. “But nothing that is out of the normal for any school.”

The school is far from perfect. Test scores are better, but still below average in many areas. Bott says they’re “far from done, but definitely on the right path.”

The students, he says, are evidence of that.

‘I can really have a future in this’

Eighth grader Keyvaughn Little said he’s come out of his shell since the school’s turnaround.
“I’ve been more open, and I’ve expressed myself more than I would have before the arts have came.”

His grades have improved, too. Keyvaughn says it’s because of the teachers — and new confidence stemming from art class.
“There’s no one particular way of doing something,” he said. “And art helps you like see that. So if you take that with you, and bring it on, it will actually help you see that in academics or anything else, there’s not one specific way you have to do something.”

Keyvaughn has now been accepted to the competitive Boston Arts Academy, the city’s only public high school specializing in visual and performing arts.

“All of the extra classes and the extra focus on it and the extra attention make you think that, ‘Hey, oh my gosh, I can really have a future in this, I don’t have to go to a regular high school — I can go to art school,’” he said.

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Fact Sheet: Police in Schools is Counterproductive

From the Sentencing Project:

There have been growing concerns about the disproportionate impact of the presence of police in schools in creating a “school-to-prison pipeline” that funnels minority youth into the criminal justice system. Information compiled by The Sentencing Project also shows that adding police to schools is a counterproductive violence prevention strategy. Memphis, Tennessee has been experiencing success in closing down the “school-to-prison-pipeline.”

The city began the School House Adjustment Program Enterprise, or SHAPE, during the 2007-2008 school year. SHAPE operates in 21 of Memphis’ 200 schools that referred the most students to juvenile court.  During the 2007-2008 school year, SHAPE schools sent nearly 1,000 students to juvenile courts. Four years later, that number was down to 264. According to John Hall of the Memphis school system, SHAPE “replaces a police record with a 90-day program of mentoring, tutoring, counseling, community service, victim restitution and other services for infractions like disorderly conduct, simple assault without injuries and gambling.”

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Action Alert: Call Your Senators To Say No Funding For More Cops in Schools…

The Senate is set to begin considering gun violence legislation. The package of bills the Senate plans to debate does not include funding for more school resource officers. We want to keep it that way, but we fully expect the introduction and support of amendments that call for more SROs. You can take action today and call your Senators to urge them not to support any amendment that would provide more funding for SROs.

– You can find your Senator’s phone number here and call using the script posted below.

Call-in Script: Tell Your Senator to Keep SROs out of the Gun Violence Package:

Hello, my name is _________________ from [your home city and state]. I am calling to urge the Senator not to support any amendments to the gun violence package that would fund more school resource officers (SROs). SROs have not made schools safer in my community. Instead of funding more SROs, I believe that funding should be invested in things that are proven to make schools safer, like mental health providers, community intervention workers, counselors, restorative justice, and positive behavior support.

Other things you can say:

  • Provide examples from your community on why more police in schools doesn’t make schools safer
  • The Secret Service and US Department of Education have warned us that the best way to prevent school violence is to improve trust and communication between students and educators.
  • Our national response to tragic shootings like Sandy Hook has been to place more police in schools, especially in communities of color.
  • As a result, school arrest rates have soared – especially for misdemeanor violations of rules like “disrupting public school.”
  • When students are arrested for behavior that should be handled by the principal, research shows that it damages the trust that schools and students need to be safe and successful.
  • We are truly harming our students’ futures: a first arrest doubles the odds a student will drop out of school.
  • Columbine High School responded to its tragedy by counseling students, our response to Sandy Hook can’t be to make schools feel like prisons.
  • As the “Amber Alert” has honored Amber Hagerman, a victim of fatal child abduction, we must honor the children of Sandy Hook Elementary with responses that promote trust and are proven to improve school safety.

To learn more, read The Sentencing Project’s factsheet, The Facts About Dangers of Added Police in Schools.

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Article: Students, Civil Rights Groups Say ‘No’ to School Cops

The following article by Greg Toppo appeared in USA Today:

As post-Newtown proposals aimed at making U.S. schools safer take shape, civil rights groups are taking an unusual stand, saying “no thanks” to more police in school.

Several groups have already told Congress that more armed officers in schools won’t necessarily make students safer. On March 28, a coalition of young people from across the nation announced its opposition to “the deployment of additional armed guards” in schools.

“We don’t need more guns,” said Judith Brown Diannis of the Advancement Project, a coalition of civil rights groups that supports the students. “We need people who can build relationships with young people.”

Hers and others are pushing for schools to hire more counselors and social workers, saying the threat from outside intruders like the one at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., is exceedingly rare. “Unfortunately, when these tragedies happen, we never make the choices that are about the long-term solutions,” she said.

The Obama administration has proposed adding 1,000 more school resource officers (SROs), counselors, social workers and school psychologists. On Jan. 16, President Obama unveiled a “Comprehensive School Safety” program that would give schools and local law enforcement agencies $150 million for new personnel, with the Department of Justice slated to develop a model for SROs.

Read the Rest Here