YES TO COUNSELORS, NO TO COPS

Statements of Support

On this page, we will include statements of support for our campaign… Special thanks to our allies for lending their voices to our efforts. Please send any statements of support from your organizations and groups to us at yes2counselors@gmail.com.

Teachers for Social Justice Statement on President Obama’s Gun Control Plans
In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the Obama administration proposed a series of gun control recommendations and policies. His four-point plan includes “making schools safer” and “increasing access to mental health services.” The plan states “We need to make our schools safer, not only by enhancing their physical security… but also by creating safer and more nurturing school climates that help prevent school violence. Putting school resource officers (specially trained police officers) and mental health professionals in schools can help prevent school crime and student-on-student violence.”

Teachers for Social Justice (TSJ) is an organization of educators who are committed to education for social justice. We fight for classrooms and schools that are anti-racist, multicultural, multilingual, academically rigorous curriculum that is both caring and critical, and grounded in the experience of our students. We believe that schools should indeed be a safe space for students, families, teachers, and all community members.

While TSJ supports the call to “make schools safer,” we must question what makes our schools “safe.” We do not support the idea that police in our schools, and the criminalization of our students, creates a “nurturing school climate.” The increased reliance of law enforcement and school resource officers often translates school discipline into police records for students – indeed an average of 25 CPS students per day are arrested on school grounds. These arrests and out-of-school suspensions disproportionately affect students of color, primarily African American and Latino students, and greatly increase the chance that these young people will enter the criminal justice system. Although most of the publicized school shootings have been by white shooters in mostly white suburban neighborhoods, the proposed increase of police in schools will only continue to criminalize African American and Latino city schools. These close ties between schools and police work directly to strengthen the school-to-prison pipeline.

Obama’s plan calls to “put up to 1,000 more school resource officers and counselors in schools.” TSJ believes we must act now to ensure that these thousand, and more, are all counselors, not police. We know schools are safer without cops in them. We know schools are safer when they have enough counselors, mental health workers, supportive and supported teachers, and relevant and engaging curriculum. We know we must fight for the “nurturing school climate” all teachers and students deserve—a climate that dismantles the school-to-prison pipeline by saying No to Cops and Yes to Counselors.

Statement of Support from the American Friends Service Committee — Chicago

As an organization committed to promoting social justice and reducing reliance on militarism in our local communities and around the world, AFSC Chicago commends the organizers of the “No to Cops; Yes to Counselors” initiative.  Our local staff work primarily to challenge federal budget priorities, and advocate on a national level for cuts to excessive Pentagon spending in order to invest in human needs programs, like education, healthcare and housing.  We fully support the “No to Cops; Yes to Counselors” campaign being lead by a coalition of grassroots organizations in Chicago, including Project NIA. 

Invest in people-centered programs, not militarism!

This is a critical opportunity to channel much-needed funds into restorative and people-centered programs, rather than resorting to ineffective, expensive, racist and punitive security measures.

Militarizing schools with metal detectors, police rooms, and armed cops does not increase safety for students in those schools, but maintains and expands a culture of “security” and the inevitable criminalization of young people, youth of color in particular.  The presence of more police in schools would likely funnel mostly poor students of color directly into our ever-expanding prison system, while doing nothing to resolve or restore conflict and violence when it does arise in school settings.

This is a question of priorities.

To be clear, we see it as a form of violence to deny schools the resources they need to actually educate and support our young people in the first place (like new textbooks, access to computers and technology, arts and music classes, quality after school programs, and of course counselors).  As youth filmmakers from Miami Edison High school explain in this video, “Our school…is classified as a low-income urban school.  Not enough resources are being spent to improve the quality of our education and it’s resulting in the inescapable truth of not having equal opportunities.”

And we can be sure that it’s these same, inner-city schools in predominantly poor and Black and Brown neighborhoods, that would be slotted to receive more “specially trained” police liaisons as a part of President Obama’s proposal.

Let’s listen to what students actually want.

Increased spending in education was the primary subject of nine of the 25 videos selected into the 2013 “If I Had a Trillion Dollars” youth film festival, a project of AFSC.  Student filmmakers in Chicago, for example, want new textbooks and more youth centers.  Not a single video advocated increased spending for policing in schools.

Our young people know what’s good for them and what isn’t.  This campaign prioritizes the voices and desires of young people in Chicago and around the country and we support them in saying “No to Cops; Yes to Counselors.”

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