Remove Police Officers from FCPS Schools
Remove Police Officers from FCPS Schools
In their budget report for fiscal year 2020, Frederick County Public Schools shared that 1.7 million dollars would be spent by the county to put police officers in schools through the district’s School Resource Officer program. A few other tidbits from that budget report: two new mental health professionals were hired, taking up 200 thousand dollars of the budget. Three new “English learner teachers,” who help students learning English as their second or third language, costs less than 200 thousand. That is to say, FCPS could hire twelve more mental health professionals or English learner teachers, raise salaries by 30%, and still not spend as much as the county spends to put cops in schools.
Clearly these police officers in our schools must be doing an enormous service to our students if so much money is being spent to put them there, right? Despite the fact that programs such as these have been created and developed all across the nation for the past 20-30 years, research has suggested that the real effect of School Resources Officers is an unsafe, fruitless learning environment and increased discrimination for students of color, particularly Black students.
The presence of cops in schools increases the number of children roped into criminal justice and juvenile systems for having “bad behavior” in school (which is quite logical, when you think about the fact that an officer's job is to arrest people). If these students aren’t arrested and sent to juvenile detention, exclusionary punitive measures are taken against them, from detention, to suspension, to expulsion. This is taking children out of classrooms, away from learning and community, and it has grave effects on these children’s likelihood of graduating or achieving any social mobility whatsoever. It also raises the question, why are we spending money to have law enforcement officers, who receive a few months to one year of training before getting licensed to do their jobs, to do the same work as social workers, educators, or mental health professionals, who must receive at least four years of education before being able to do their jobs (and they aren't the ones carrying weapons!).
To any readers who are thinking, well, I’d rather these students be taken out of classrooms, because the good kids who actually want to learn should get the best education: it’s not “bad” kids who are being taken out of schools, it’s marginalized kids who are denied any help. Black boys are three times as more likely to be arrested in school than white boys. Black girls make up around 16% of the female student population nationally, but over 30% of all female students arrested in schools. Up to 40% of children sent to juvenile detention are LGBTQ+. These children are the most likely children in Frederick county to be unsheltered, with the least access to resources, and our schools respond to their suffering by criminalizing them. The fact is, because of the internal biases and stereotypes that all white people have as a product of the culture in which we were raised, when students of color or otherwise marginalized students misbehave or struggle in the classroom (talking back, being loud, getting frustrated), administrators, educators, and school resource officers alike are more likely to see a threat. Even if it’s coming from children as young as 6 or seven years old.
Research shows that “behavioral problems” from students are more likely when those students are hungry, unsheltered, unsafe at home, struggling to learn English as a second language, or otherwise struggling to access basic life necessities. We need to stop responding to that with anger, punishment, and exclusion from the community. A lot of people are opening their eyes right now to the harms of law enforcement and frequency of police violence against Black people and people of color, and Frederick is not immune. Law enforcement officers, under our current sheriff Chuck Jenkins (who is a vocal supporter of President Trump & ICE), murdered unarmed Black and disabled folks on numerous occasions without repercussions. We need to be thinking about what it means that this county is spending 1.7 million dollars to put these people in schools, in charge of our children. I would argue that any potential benefits that come out of this 1.7 million dollars are far outweighed by the harms caused. This money would be put to far better use if directed towards a MYRIAD of different sources, from basic resources (hygiene, food, school supplies), to educators’ salaries, to mental health professionals & resources, to special education, to restorative justice training and programming for the NUMEROUS sexual assaults that happen our students and go entirely unaddressed. The list could go on.
All of the information & research in this letter are from the following sources:
FCPS 2020 fiscal year budget report (available through their website)
Frederick County Sheriff’s Office website
Pushout- The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools by Monique W. Morris (2016)
PBS News- “Analysis reveals racial disparities in school arrests” (2017)