Success and Impact

Resources Highlight Harms Caused By School Officers, Encourage Their Removal

Art of person yelling with fire behind their head

When police are in schools, more students in those schools are arrested — many for minor behavioral issues — and forced through the insidious school-to-prison pipeline. The National Center for Youth Law has proudly worked to bring more attention to this troubling trend and encourage school districts and municipalities to remove law enforcement officers from their campuses.

NCYL’s work in this area is multi-pronged and includes on-the-ground advocacy, policy development and the creation of educational resources that highlight the harms caused by having armed officers on campuses. Children, especially those who are Black and Brown, are at particular risk of suffering these devastating negative outcomes — including trauma and both physical and mental harm — when police are in their schools.

Among NCYL’s efforts to remove officers from school campuses:

  • The development of “Police In Schools,” a backgrounder paper that examines the harms caused by having police in schools and suggests alternative approaches and offers resources;
  • The creation of a fact-sheet for reporters that includes research-based data and other information aimed at helping journalists responsibly report on school resource officers (SROs); and
  • Collaborative work with the San Jose Equity Coalition in California to support its efforts to remove SROs from its community’s campuses.

Protecting students

NCYL’s work in fighting to remove law enforcement from schools is grounded in protecting students’ safety.

As the use of SROs has risen over the past couple decades, so too have arrest rates. This is especially troubling, as many of these arrests are for minor offenses, like talking back, and Black students are arrested at much higher rates than their white peers. Young children are also at risk, as more than 30,000 children younger than 10 were arrested in the U.S. between 2013 and 2018.

The resources developed by NCYL examine these trends and the many ways that they harm children and fuel the school-to-prison pipeline. They also note misconceptions surrounding SROs — such as that they stop school shootings, despite no data existing to support this claim — and offer details for alternative approaches that support students, like positive interventions and supports, empathic discipline, restorative justice, and a focus on social and emotional learning.

The “Police in Schools” backgrounder was developed through a partnership between the American Federation of Teachers and the Education Civil Rights Alliance (ECRA), of which NCYL is a steering member.

The ECRA offers additional resources to support police-free schools, including an updated Police-Free Schools Tracker.

NCYL is proud to help drive reform in this space.