Editor: John Whitbeck claims “School safety is one of my top concerns. Expanding the School Resource Officer program will be my first goal as Chair of the #Loudoun Board of Supervisors.” This leaves me wondering whose safety he is really concerned about.
Studies have shown the presence of school resource officers has a negative impact on students of color. A recent study shows “police surges significantly reduced test scores for African American boys, consistent with their greater exposure to policing.”https://osf.io/preprints/socarxiv/rdchf/
Another study showed “police in schools increase middle school discipline rates by six percent. Further, I find that low-income students and Black and Hispanic students experience the largest increases in discipline. I also find that exposure to a three-year federal grant for school police is associated with a 2.5 percent decrease in high school graduation rates and a four percent decrease in college enrollment rates.”https://drive.google.com/file/d/1XbO7qyNWB4Fz54nGXJuej-yRhvTa5kMF/view
Why should Loudoun expand our School Resource office program when there is no evidence showing that they make schools safer? There is data showing it is a “failed approach” that takes significant resources without making schools safer. The unintended consequence of police presence in our schools are “higher rate of suspensions, expulsions and arrests that funnel kids into the criminal justice system. That’s especially true, he says, in schools attended predominantly by students of color.”
The funneling of students into the criminal justice system is known as the school to prison pipeline. Virginia is leading the nation in referring students to law enforcement. This is something every elected official should be working to dismantle. Black students are falling into the school to prison pipeline at alarmingly high rates. In 2009-2010, black students made up 18 percent of public-school students. Yet 40 percent of students who received one or more out of school suspensions were black. 1 in 4 Black students with a disability are suspended at least once compared to 1 in 11 white students. We know that students of color are more likely to be referred to law enforcement and are given harsher penalties than white students for the same conduct. This study concluded that“racial disparities are not explained by more frequent or more serious misbehavior by students of color.”
LCPS is currently grappling with the findings of an equity assessment that found our schools have a “low level of racial consciousness and racial literacy. …The report also highlights racial insults/slurs to which our students are subjected.” Whitbeck’s desire to expand the school resource officer program makes me think he is out of touch with LCPS and is running for the wrong office. The board of supervisors holds the purse for LCPS but cannot force our schools to increase police presence.
When we are talking about school safety, we need to focus on the safety of students of color. When we ensure the safety of students of color, all students are being protected. When Whitbeck talks about “Protecting Loudoun’s future” he is not including students of color. School should be a gateway to higher learning, not prison. Say no to SROs.