BALTIMORE, Md. — Maryland’s largest school district removed police officers from the hallways this fall, for the first time in 19 years, and a new report urges other districts to follow suit.
Racial-equity protests last year in Montgomery County called attention to school-based officers arresting students of color much more often than white students.
Dick Mendel, a senior research fellow for The Sentencing Project and author of the study, said research backs up protesters’ complaints and shows Black and brown students are more likely to be arrested for less serious offenses.
He added minority students and those with disabilities also end up with more suspensions and expulsions.
“It’s deeply problematic for those young people’s futures,” Mendel asserted. “They’re much more likely to drop out of school, much more likely to enter the justice system if they’re suspended. And yet, kids in the U.S. miss 11 million school days per year due to suspensions.”
The report noted students suffered learning loss and disengagement while studying at home last school year, which Mendel cautioned may lead to behavior issues in classes this fall. He urged school officials to invest in new resources, as Montgomery County did, to keep young people out of prison and in the classroom.
Nate Balis, director of the juvenile justice strategy group for the Annie E. Casey Foundation, said federal COVID stimulus funding for education, totaling more than $120 billion, offers an unprecedented chance to launch services outside of law enforcement to help vulnerable children.
“There are opportunities for funding that have never been there before,” Balis contended. “Where we can support young people and their families through tutoring and mentoring, or from community programs that may not exist in those districts right now.”
The report also pointed out most schools do not have enough counselors or other mental health professionals, despite evidence that shows, unlike police officers, their presence promotes safety and enhances student success.