Oppose Council Bill 33-19
The County Council will consider a bill next week that could put some of our most vulnerable children at risk of abuse and criminalization by increasing police presence in our schools.
Bill 33-19, “Police - Community Policing” has been framed as a reform bill, but instead it expands policing and reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline.
Our main concern is the provision that would expand the county’s School Resource Officer (SRO) Program. SROs are police who work in our schools, and evidence demonstrates that their presence elevates ordinary disciplinary issues into criminal issues, perpetuating the school-to-prison pipeline and disproportionately harming children of color and children with disabilities.
The Department of Education’s Civil Rights Division found in 2016 that Black students in particular are 2.3 times more likely to be referred to law enforcement. The county police have made no demonstrable efforts to overcome the racial bias that is clear when looking at county data and numerous recent incidents, making it clear that racial bias pervades the department; this bill would only entrench those problems more deeply in our schools.
The intended expansion of SROs in the bill is vague - a problem in itself for any quality legislation - and since every high school in the county except one already has an SRO, it is possible the expansion could bring police into our middle schools or even elementary schools, as some districts have done.
This provision is antithetical to SSJC’s goals to
(a) Reduce police presence in our schools and neighborhoods;
(b) Establish practices that reduce the risk to residents of abuse by police officers;
(c) Stop asking police to address social needs and issues, and instead fund much-needed social services and professionals, a major gap in our schools.
The County Council should instead be focused on:
1. working to expand the number of counselors and nurses based in schools, who currently fall dangerously short in a county where students are at risk of or challenged by mental and physical illnesses, and
2. working with the new Policing Advisory Commission to create evidence-based, effective policies that align to county values as articulated in the county’s Racial Equity Initiative.
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