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July 29, 2020

Reps. Pressley, Omar & Sens. Murphy, Warren Unveil Bill to Get Police Out of Schools

Bill Text (PDF) | One-Pager (PDF)

WASHINGTON – Congresswomen Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Ilhan Omar (MN-05), along with Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), today unveiled legislation that would help disrupt the school to confinement pathway and put an end to the over policing of our nation’s K-12 schools. The bill would prohibit the use of federal funds on police in schools and instead provide resources to school districts to support the hiring of counselors, nurses, social workers and other health care providers—critical personnel with the training and professional expertise in serving vulnerable students, improving educational outcomes and keeping schools safe.

“Every student should be able to learn in a setting free from fear,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “But for too many young people—particularly Black and brown students, immigrant students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and other historically marginalized students—the very presence of police officers in schools increases the likelihood that they will be criminalized and put on a path to confinement for everyday childhood behavior. Instead of criminalizing our students and funding an ever growing police presence in our public schools, it’s time to finally invest in the critical staff like counselors, nurses and social workers who actually make our schools safer. The Counseling not Criminalization in Schools Act is bold legislation that will disrupt the school to confinement pathway by prohibiting federal funds from being used to over-police and criminalize our students and instead encourages schools to invest in the trauma informed personnel and health care staff necessary to equip all students to learn and thrive.”  

“Schools should be places of learning, not law enforcement. As a mother of three beautiful Black children and a Minneapolis public schools graduate, I have seen firsthand how Black and brown children are disproportionately punished, reprimanded, suspended and expelled in our schools,” said Congresswoman Omar. “In Minneapolis, black students are 41% of the student population, but make up three quarters of all suspensions. At one middle school in my district, African American students were 338% more likely to be suspended than their white peers last year. If we’re going to tackle systemic racism, we need to start at childhood. That means getting police out of schools. I am proud to lead this bill with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Ayanna Pressley—and look forward to our partnership in getting this passed into law.”

“Police shouldn’t be in schools. There are plenty of better ways to ensure that our schools are safe places to learn, and Congress needs to understand how police in schools ends up with the wrong kids getting arrested for minor disciplinary actions and resources being drained from more effective programs. And we know that Black and Latino kids are disproportionately affected, as they are referred and arrested at drastically higher rates than their white peers. If we are going to begin to tackle systemic racism in this country, we must start by addressing the racial inequities in our education system, and getting police out of classrooms is a necessary first step,” said Murphy. “In Connecticut, in the wake of a horrific school shooting, many schools hired police officers to enhance the peace of mind of parents. But now we have plenty of evidence to show that there are far better ways to ensure kids’ safety, and that these police officers are contributing to a civil rights crisis that we must address.”

“Counselors, nurses, social workers, and educators belong in schools. Police do not,” said Senator Warren. “Our bill will bring us one step closer to ending the militarization of our public schools that disproportionately hurts Black and Brown students, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and ensuring we give every child the resources they need to feel safe and thrive.”

Over the last 50 years, our nation’s public schools have become sites for increased criminalization and surveillance of young people, particularly Black, Native American and Latinx students, immigrant students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and other historically marginalized students.  Since 1999, the Federal government has invested more than $1 billion to subsidize the placement of police in schools, resulting in more than 46,000 school resource officers (SROs) patrolling the halls of K-12 schools throughout the nation.

However, a growing body of research has not found any evidence that school police make schools safer. When police officers have a presence in schools, students are more likely to have their learning interrupted, more likely to be subjected to physical restraint and interrogation, and more likely to be referred to law enforcement and funneled into the school to confinement pathway.

The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act would help reduce the over policing and criminalization of our nation’s students by:

  • Prohibiting federal funds to support the hiring, recruitment and placement of police officers on K-12 school campuses;
  • Establishing a $2.5 billion grant program to invest in school districts seeking to replace law enforcement officers with adequately trained personnel like counselors, social workers, nurses, mental health practitioners and trauma informed personnel, which have been proven to create safer and more inclusive learning environments in schools.

Click here for a one-pager on the legislation.

This legislation is supported by the The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, The National Urban League, American Federation of Teachers, Boston Teachers Union, the Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston, National Women’s Law Center, the Justice Collaborative, Center for Disability Rights, Inc., National Center for Disability Rights, National Education Association, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), Girls, Inc., GLSEN, Human Rights Campaign, Education Law Center, Advancement Project, Open Society Policy Center, the Center for Popular Democracy, Drug Policy Alliance, National Center for Learning Disabilities, the Daniel Initiative, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates,  the Criminalization of Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, the National Center for Youth Law, the National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), and PolicyLink.

Last fall, Congresswoman Pressley introduced the People’s Justice Guarantee, a radical reimagining of the American legal system to center the humanity, safety, dignity, and freedom of all. In December, she introduced H.R. 5325, the Ending PUSHOUT Act, legislation to end the criminalization and overly punitive discipline practices that pushout girls of color from schools and to disrupt the school-to-confinement pathway.

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