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The Right to Remain a Student: Police in California Schools

Today, the ACLU of California released The Right to Remain a Student, a report about the negative effects of police on campus.

The report describes how on-campus policing often over-criminalizes students—mostly low-income students of color—and pushes affected students into the school-to-prison pipeline. It also analyzes the most recent Office of Civil Rights data and explores how police interactions on campus have negatively impacted California students. Finally, it finds that many California school districts have policies about student discipline and police on campus that are deficient, vague, or even non-existent.

The report’s findings include:

  • In California, the average arrest rate in schools where more than 80% of students are low-income is seven times higher than the average arrest rate where fewer than 20% of students are low-income.

  • School officials are more likely to refer incidents involving students of color to the police than those involving white students. For example, Black students are 2.7 times more likely to be referred to police in California.

  • In California, most school districts give staff complete discretion to call police to address student misbehavior or rule breaking that should be handled by administrators, counselors, or other school staff.

The report makes a number of recommendations, including:

  • Police should not be permanently stationed on school campuses.

  • Counselors and other school staff should handle bullying, harassment, disruptiveness, vandalism, drug and alcohol abuse, and other non-violent incidents.

  • School districts must keep comprehensive data about law enforcement interactions with students, disaggregated by race, gender, ethnicity, and disability status of the student.

  • School districts should commit to practices that increase fairness, improve communication, and promote positive problem-solving mechanisms. School districts should divert funding away from law enforcement and security officers and invest more in counselors, teachers, and restorative justice strategies.

The report, along with a toolkit and model school policies, can be accessed here.

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