Rep. Ayanna Pressley is calling on Congress to end federal funding for police officers in schools with the reintroduction of a bill opponents fear feeds off the defund the police movement.
“Instead of subsidizing more police officers, we need to help schools hire more counselors, more nurses, more mental health practitioners, and our bill will do just that,” Pressley said Thursday.
If passed, the Counseling Not Criminalization In Schools Act — championed by Pressley and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn. — would prohibit the use of federal dollars to hire or maintain police officers in schools nationwide. Federal grants would go toward hiring school staffers to provide counseling and mental health resources in schools, instead of police.
Local municipalities could continue funding officers in schools.
The most recent government data shows about 42% of public schools in the U.S. have at least one police officer — termed a school resource officer — stationed on school grounds. Among schools with 1,000 students or more, 77% had a school resource officer on staff.
Since 1998, the federal government has spent an estimated $1 billion placing police officers in schools, a figure cited in Pressley’s bill.
Pressley asserts that students of color are often unfairly targeted and disciplined by police in schools.
“In my home state of Massachusetts, for example, black girls are four times more likely to be arrested than white girls. This is not simply an inequity, this is a crisis in and of itself,” she said.
But, others warn it’s a mistake.
“I believe that those are specific incidents that anti-law enforcement folks use as a broad brush measure,” said Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, which trains school police across the country.
Canady said that instruction specifically highlights the dangers of unintentionally acting with bias against students in minority demographics.
The movement to take police out of schools has gained some local momentum. Just last month, the Somerville School Committee voted to suspend the district’s school resource officer program, becoming the second municipality to kick police off school grounds after Worcester made the move in March.
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