Remove SROs from Wake County Schools
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Wake County Public Schools is the largest school district in North Carolina, boasting 161,907 students. Spanning across the district, there are over 70 School Resource Officers (SROs) with at least one for every middle and high school.
Following the brutal murder of George Floyd, protests erupted in various municipalities of Wake County in support of #BlackLivesMatter, with the most notable one being in Raleigh. As witnessed live or on media, the Raleigh Police Department reacted violently to the protestors, some of whom were WCPSS students. RPD tear-gassed and brutalized peaceful protesters, fired flash bags and non-lethal rounds at medics, and escalated violence across the city.
Unsurprisingly, the same officers who are out on the streets, terrorizing the communities they are claiming to serve, are the ones who are in our school environments disproportionately targeting Black and Brown students, whether it be through racial profiling or over-criminalization.
Police brutality doesn’t just happen in the streets, It happens in our schools too.
Choosing to value life and education, the Minneapolis Public School board voted unanimously to sever its long-standing relationship with the police department that provided them with Student Resource officers.
In that same breath, we urge the Wake County Public School System to follow in the steps of the Minneapolis School board and END their relationship with the Wake County Sheriff’s Office and local police departments.
For a school district that claims to be committed to equity, inclusion, and anti-racist work, they should not align themselves with a police force that heavily contributes to the school-to-prison pipeline. No time like the present for the Wake County Public School System to acknowledge, address, and actively fight against the systemic racism that is infiltrating our education, by weeding out what leads students to be funneled to the adult criminal system.
In recent years, programs like Teen Court and Raise the Age have been notable efforts to reduce the impacts of the school-to-prison pipeline. However, they are not enough. As Tyler Whittenberg, Chief Counsel for Justice Systems Reform for the Southern Coalition for Social Justice puts it, we must completely “eliminate this concept of youth criminalization.” The youth that is introduced to the juvenile system are disproportionately black male students. According to ‘Disproportionate Minority Contactin North Carolina: An Assessment Study’ :
- In 2017, Black youth in Wake and Mecklenburg Counties and Latino youth in Wake were less likely to be an adjudicated delinquent, and more likely to have the complaint case against them approved.
- In 2017, while Black students make up 22% of the WCPSS population, they account for 69% of the complaint cases in Wake County.
Beyond the criminalization of Black youth, SROs do not contribute to the well being and safety of the student body. School Resource Officers physically assault students, like Jasmine Darwin, who received a concussion from being body-slammed to the ground, and pepper-sprayed or where Officer Brandenburg at Enloe High School in Raleigh, NC once told a student “You know how to catch criminals, right? You just play the national anthem and see who kneels.”. These stories are not one time incidents, they are repetitive behaviors. Since SROs continue to not keep students safe, We urge that in place of SROs, the Wake County School board shall provide alternate plans/resources to keep students safe.
Currently, the state of North Carolina gives municipalities $37,838 for each high school (middle and elementary schools are not included in this state funding) to fund its SRO position. Based on released agreements, Wake County School Board gives $117,676 to the Town of Apex to fund its SROs and gives $189,190 to fund the Town of Cary. Imagine the total the Wake County School Board gives to all municipalities in Wake County. We urge the Wake County School Board to reallocate these funds to programs that don’t negatively impact our students. This may look like increasing funding to schools in low-income neighborhoods, funding after school programs, increasing affordable housing, or whatever the respective community needs.
It’s imperative that we begin to shift the needle from criminalization to actually supporting students' needs, particularly the needs of Black Students.
Black Lives Matter.
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*Photograph by Van Broyles
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