California school districts are on a roll this year working to end the school-to-prison pipeline. Alongside recent victories in Los Angeles and San Francisco that limited out-of-school suspensions, in the past year Oakland, Pasadena and San Francisco have all made sweeping changes to their rules for school police officers.
"Oakland Unified, San Francisco Unified and Pasadena Unified are revamping their policies to ensure that police are called as a last resort when disciplining students on campus. The policies also require that students be told they have a right to remain silent and to request a parent or other adult of their choosing to be present before police interrogate them. The policies require districts to keep data on referrals to law enforcement, citations, arrests and alternative disciplinary practices."
Having police in schools increases the number of minor misbehaviors that are referred to law enforcement, feeding the school-to-prison pipeline and disproportionately impacting students of color and students with disabilities. The money schools spend on police officers would be better spent training teachers on restorative practices or hiring counselors.
Nationally, 1 out of every 6 Black K-12 students are suspended each year, compared to just 1 out of every 20 White students, often for similar misbehaviors and for infractions as minor as dress code violations. In the zero-tolerance culture that dominates many public schools across the country, misbehaviors that could (and should) be dealt with by a trip to the principal's office are instead resulting in millions of students being suspended from the classroom. Suspensions increase the likelihood of students dropping out and becoming involved in the juvenile justice system, and they contribute to achievement gaps for students of color.
You can learn about promising policies that some states and districts are using to end the school-to-prison pipeline with our state and local school discipline policies guides. Or check out our restorative practices toolkit for educators here.