Data is the foundation for needed school policing reforms – Marin Independent Journal
A court-appointed commission’s scrutiny of policing on local school campuses raises serious questions about racial equity and how we can better keep our public high schools safe.
The Marin County Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Commission report reviewed records of police contact with students between 2017-18 and 2019-20 and found that minority students were arrested and fined at rates higher than their proportionate share of the school population.
The report follows recent complaints about police departments posting school resource officers to local campuses.
Public outcry over police killings of black residents across the country has increased the volume of local criticism of officers’ presence on campus. This response led to reforms of these safety programs in the San Rafael City School District and the Novato Unified School District.
In San Rafael, the SRO program has been replaced by a restorative justice program that has so far reduced arrests and citations of minority students, said commission spokesman Don Carney.
The goal of the commission’s work was to “uncover the truth about police-student interactions in county schools.”
Commission Member and San Rafael Police Lt. Scott Eberle was part of the team that collected and compiled the statistics.
In several cases, minority students have been cited or arrested by police at rates 20% higher than their proportion of school enrolments.
For example, at Davidson Middle School, students of color make up about 75% of enrollment at the San Rafael campus, but 95% of students who have been arrested and cited by campus police.
Students of color make up about 50% of Novato High School’s enrollment, but commission statistics show that 72% of arrests and citations were for minority students.
In response to this trend, the commission recommends that school resource officers be replaced with “school law enforcement liaison officers” who would only be called in for serious crimes.
Other incidents should be handled by school security and counselors and the formation of on-campus restorative justice programs aimed at diversion and reconciliation.
As Carney told the IJ, “schools should call law enforcement for the same reasons anyone would call law enforcement — to respond to serious crimes.”
While local police departments have supported the SRO program as a way to increase campus safety and build positive youth and teen relationships, there have been complaints that schools have asked officers manage incidents best suited to be handled by campus staff and support services that retain students. responsible without involving the police.
Developing a fact-based report and recommendations is the foundation needed to put in place the changes and reforms needed – better ways to keep campuses safe and secure and help students avoid trouble.