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A recent study by the Black Organizing Project, Public Counsel, and the ACLU, shows that the police presence in Oakland schools has a negative impact on students. School policing isn’t a new topic but since the Newtown, Connecticut school shooting, administrators and school officials have been pushing for even more police presence in schools. But statistics show that the police aren’t helping.
Seventy two percent of calls from schools to Oakland Unified School District’s police force were regarding reports of what the police force calls “non-criminal conduct.” Misha Cornelius, the Communications Coordinator for the Black Organizing Project, describes “non-criminal conduct” as “gambling, running away, and drinking. These are the things they consider least serious offenses.”
Cornelius had the opportunity to work closely with youth and has heard personal stories of how policing at schools can make youth feel threatened. “There are lots of folks who can testify to the fact that they feel as though police are sometimes biased in the way that they do their policing,” says Cornelius. “They kind of have preemptive models of policing or predictive models of policing where they can see someone and they assume that that person has done something they haven’t just because of the way they look, the color of their skin, the way they dress….”
The study also shows that out of all the arrests that were made on school campuses, 78% of them are black kids, when they only make up 29% of the student body, so for Cornelius, it’s not hard to believe police may be wrongfully targeting students of color. This goes on to say that it is unclear what the role of police is on campus.
One surprising finding in the study, was the majority of arrests made were nonsustained, meaning the youth were only held for a short period of time, and then let go. Only now, they are left with an arrest on their record. The report says that a negative encounter with the police can increase their chances of dropping out of high school.
“Policing is a kind of reactive model; not really proactive,” Cornelius says. “There’s only 20.5 guidance counselors in the Oakland Unified School District. That’s only 1 counselor for almost 2,000 students. Experts say that in order to have an effective restorative justice program you have to spend at least 50,000 dollars. We have those alternative models out there, but unfortunately we’re not investing in them the way the we should be.” Currently she added that, OUSD spends about 5,000 dollars on restorative justice programs.