Provide safeguards to keep kids out of the school-to-prison pipeline

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Members of the Lincoln Public School board and the Lincoln City Council are exploring ways to improve student safety and success with an expansion of mental health and after school programs, which is good news. However, one very concerning aspect of this proposal expands School Resources Officers (SROs) into more Lincoln Public Schools.

Local families of color and civil rights leaders have expressed concerns about this aspect of the proposal and have shared their personal stories with our elected leaders about their negative experiences with the SRO program.

Complementing these lived experiences is the data demonstrating how the local SRO program negatively impacts minority students and students with disabilities, leading to disproportionate discipline and unnecessary criminal charges for the city's youth, fostering the school-to-prison pipeline.

According to the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights newly released data on school discipline for the 2015-2016 school year, in Lincoln Public Schools:

  • Black students represent 6.4 percent of Lincoln's student population, yet they account for 26.8 percent of referrals to law enforcement;

  • Hispanic students represent 13.3 percent of the total student population, but 20.6 percent of the referrals to law enforcement;

  • Disabled students represent 15.5 percent of the population, yet they account for 50.5 percent of referrals to law enforcement; and

  • 7.7 percent of all disabled students are Black, yet 38.8 percent of all disabled students referred to law enforcement are Black.

One thing other communities have done to try to mitigate the school-to-prison pipeline is to establish a strong memorandum of understanding to ensure proper officer training and critical civil rights protections for all students and families. Lincoln leaders have drafted a very modest memorandum that sadly fails to meet best practices.

Dear Lincoln Leaders:

We are concerned that the latest memorandum of understanding regarding school resource officers does not go far enough to protect our students from being unduly criminalized. We ask that it be amended to mirror best practices and ensure real protections for all children but specifically for children of color and special needs who bear a disproportionate share in the school-to-prison pipeline.

Please ensure that the final document:

  1. requires training for school resource officers so they can understand the preventative and support programs and practices offered by the school and community;

  2. specifies robust data collection about disciplined students to allow for monitoring LPS’s impact on the school-to-prison pipeline;

  3. limits SROs’ authority to conduct interviews, collect evidence, and use of force and mechanical restraints; and

  4. prohibits SRO or LPS staff inquiries into students’ immigration status or that of their family members.

Please take the time to establish these basic safeguards to protect the civil rights of our school children.