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August 14, 2020

Support Grows for the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act

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WASHINGTON – Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley (MA-07) and Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) on Friday highlighted growing grassroots support for the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, which seeks to disrupt the school to prison pipeline by shifting how the federal  government invests in school safety. The bill prohibits the use of federal funds for maintaining and growing police presence in schools and establishes a $2.5 billion grant program to support schools that choose to invest in counselors, nurses, mental health professionals and trauma-informed staff.

“By putting an end to the over policing in our schools and instead investing in counselors, nurses, social workers, and other trained professionals who actually make our schools safer, the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act would help end the criminalization of Black and Brown students and affirm their right to learn in a setting free from fear,” said Congresswoman Pressley. “I’m grateful for the growing coalition of individuals and organizations from across the country who have joined us in support of this bill, and I look forward to their continued partnership as we work to end the school to confinement pathway and ensure all students can learn, grow, and thrive in the classroom.”

“Too many kids in our country attend a school with a police officer but without a single counselor, social worker or school psychologist. The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act encourages people to rethink the way we look at school safety—helping districts move away from the presence of police and investing in the mental health professionals that improve school climate and reduce the school-to-prison pipeline. We are grateful to have the support of so many committed advocates as we fight to make sure every child feels safe at school,” said Senator Murphy.

Below is a roundup of support for Congresswoman Pressley’s and Senator Murphy’s effort to end federal funding for school-based police and provides resources to replace:

Jessica Tang, President, Boston Teachers Union: “Right now, it is vital that all students are in supportive learning environments where their social-emotional and physical health needs are met. As a nation, we need to prioritize these needs over punitive disciplinary practices that often contribute to pushing students out of school and into what is often called the “school to prison pipeline.” The additional counselors that will be added as a result of the Act will provide much needed support for our schools. The Boston Teachers Union strongly urges our legislators to join with Congresswoman Pressley and Senator Murphy to pass this vital Act.”

Marlyn Tillman, Dignity in Schools Campaign and Gwinnett SToPP: “The “Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act” is aligned with DSC’s “Counselors not Cops” campaign and our “Model Code on Education and Dignity,” both of which support the elimination of police in schools by using evidence-based practices to support positive approaches to school safety. This bill provides schools with an opportunity to create a school environment where students are emotionally and physically safe to learn without being criminalized. Research does not support that police make schools safer. School systems must invest in evidence-based school discipline strategies that do not continue to harm black and brown students and students with disabilities, and this bill provides them an opportunity to do so.”

Jennifer Epps-Addison, Network President and Co-Director of the Center for Popular Democracy: “The federal government has spent more than 1 billion dollars putting police in schools since 1999. Today millions of young people, particularly Black and Latinx students and students with disabilities, are attending schools with police officers, but no counselors or nurses. The Center for Popular Democracy is proud to endorse The Counseling not Criminalization in Schools Act, introduced by Representatives Pressley, Omar, Warren and Murphy. This legislation is a critical step towards dismantling the pervasive school-to-prison-and-deportation pipeline. This Act echoes the demands that Black and Brown students and their communities have been making for decades and should be supported by anyone who believes in racial and educational justice and in the right of us all to have the freedom to thrive.”

Dara Baldwin, National Policy Director, Center for Disability Rights: “In the past few months this country has witnessed a change in the fight to save Black Lives from injury and/or death by Law Enforcement. This struggle includes our schools and our Black disabled students who are more likely to be harmed and/or killed by School Resource Officers. We support Sen. Murphy and Rep. Pressley with this bold legislation to create change and remove law enforcement from schools.”

Katherine Dunn, Regional Policy Analyst, Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund: “Schools are much safer and healthier for children when they prioritize the physical, mental and emotional needs of students. When police are in schools, Black and brown children and children with disabilities are at a much greater risk of referrals to law enforcement and arrest than their peers. Yet, many children across the country go to school with police but no school counselors. It is time to end this harmful and racist practice in our schools. The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools bill encourages school districts to meaningfully engage their communities on common-sense alternatives to school policing and we urge all members of Congress to support its passage.”

Kathleen King, Interim Policy Director, Children’s Defense Fund: “Schools should be safe, supportive spaces for all our nation’s children, but the growing presence of police in our schools is jeopardizing our children’s educations and lives. The over-policing of schools criminalizes children for typical childlike behavior, militarizes the school climate, and perpetuates the cradle-to-prison pipeline. This is especially true for children of color—specifically Black children—children who are poor, LGBTQ children, and children with disabilities. By prioritizing trauma-informed, evidence-based supports rather than policing, the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act is an important step toward ensuring every child has access to high-quality educational opportunities without fear of discrimination or criminalization, and the Children’s Defense Fund is proud to support this important legislation.”

Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP): “The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act invests in students’ mental health and wellbeing and divests from racist and harmful disciplinary actions which impact young peoples’ health and livelihoods. The bill is an important first step to bringing about needed change in school climate, as all young people deserve to feel safe and supported.”

National Disability Rights Network: “The National Disability Rights Network applauds the introduction of the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act. The data is clear – the presence of police officers in schools disproportionately affects students with disabilities, especially students of color with disabilities through higher rates of referrals to law enforcement than their white peers, with or without disabilities. This injustice must stop. This important bill not only diverts federal funding away from supporting the presence of police in schools but incentivizes districts to use federal funding to support all our students, including students with disabilities. The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act is an important step towards truly making our schools healthier and safer for all students.”

Drug Policy Alliance: “Our children deserve to feel safe and supported in schools. Policing our students does not meet this goal. It is unconscionable that many of our children are attending schools outfitted with police officers but lacking in resources that promote quality education and a healthful life, such as counselors and nurses. We support the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act because it will aid this nation’s students, especially students who attend under-resourced schools.”

Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK): “Schools need to be safe places for learning. Uniformed, armed police officers do not make schools safer and conducive to learning. Instead, the evidence is clear that having police in school leads to more students with disabilities and more students of color being arrested. The money spent on police would be far better spent on mental health professionals, such as social workers and school psychologists. Senator Murphy has demonstrated tremendous courage in taking on this critical education issue.”

Abby Anderson, Executive Director of the Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance: “The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act is vitally important because it acknowledges and looks to reverse the harmful impact police in schools have had on young people, especially Black, brown, disabled and LGBTQ youth. For years districts have been incentivized to bring police officers into schools, which has supported the school to prison pipeline by criminalizing normal, adolescent behaviors. This legislation looks to make schools truly safe environments by incentivizing investments into restorative justice practices, social-emotional learning, access to behavioral health supports and other resources that create school climates where everyone is valued.”

Center for Children’s Advocacy: “The Center for Children’s Advocacy commends Senator Murphy for joining Senator Warren in introducing the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act.  This crucial piece of federal legislation will ensure that our country’s most at risk students will begin to receive the social and emotional support that they need rather being referred for police involvement.  It takes a necessary bold step by creating funding streams that incentivize hiring and training more counseling and social work professionals in trauma informed practices and behavioral interventions over police presence in schools.”

The legislation has been endorsed by:

The American Federation of Teachers

National Education Association


NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.

The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Center for Law and Social Policy

Children’s Defense Fund

SPLC Action Fund 

Human Rights Campaign

National Urban League

The Justice Collaborative

Girls Inc. Advancement Project

Open Society Policy Center

The Center for Popular Democracy

Dignity in Schools

National Juvenile Justice Network

American Counselors Association

Autistic Self Advocacy Network

National Women’s Law Center

Center for Disability Rights

Drug Policy Alliance

National Center for Learning Disabilities

National Disability Rights Network

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

Southern Coalition for Social Justice

Education Law Center (PA)


The Boston Teachers Union

The Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston

National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI)


Special Education Equity for Kids (SEEK)

Connecticut Juvenile Justice Alliance

Center for Children’s Advocacy

In addition to Murphy and Pressley, the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act is co-sponsored by U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.).

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