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Education Justice Groups Demand Police-free Schools, Highlight Importance of Investing in Community Solutions

For Immediate Release

June 9, 2022

WASHINGTON – Black Swan Academy, Dignity in Schools, Center for Popular Democracy, Communities for Just Schools Fund, Education for Liberation Network, Gwinnett SToPP, LA Students Deserve, and Advancement Project held a media call in the aftermath of the horrific mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. The leaders cautioned against school hardening proposals that call for arming teachers and increasing police in schools. They elaborated on their concerns in a June 8, media call: https://youtu.be/E1uzPx_18NU.

“There have been a series of horrid acts of violence this past month alone,” said Cierra Kaler-Jones, director of storytelling for Communities for Just Schools Fund. “No teacher, child, administrator or loved one should fear violence when sending a child to school.”

In the aftermath of the horrific school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, many are wondering where we go from here. Education justice groups are calling for the removal of police in schools and the creation of a culture of connectedness in schools.

“I want to take this time to lift up the victims, survivors and people who are holding the grief of loss to the horrendous act of violence that took place in Uvalde,” said Awo Okaikor Aryee-Price, executive director of the Education for Liberation Network. “We have been here before. We have seen countless times when children have been murdered in our sacred places and this speaks to the foundation of violence at this nation’s founding and grounding. The violence that made this country will be the violence that destroys it unless we wake up and act. We must be collectively invested in creating a world where children are unapologetically cared for. The presence of police is a public health issue because they add to the violence.”

“I want to emphasize that the hardening of schools, the militarization of schools and increasing school police will not work,” said Ashley Sawyer, senior attorney at Advancement Project. “Police do not keep us safe. “Police do not prevent or end school-based shootings. Studies show that increased police and increased training for police does not stop school shootings. Instead, we should invest robustly in the types of things young people need to feel safe, whole, and invested in at school is the key. Police are purveyors of physical assaults and sexual assaults of students in schools.”

The groups shared their vision for holistically safe schools and communities.

“I want to extend my deepest condolences to the victims and survivors of the mass shooting epidemic that has gripped this nation,” said Marlyn Tillman, federal strategies co-chair for the Dignity in Schools Campaign and the executive director of Gwinnett SToPP. “Our ‘Communities not Cops’ campaign calls for safe, supportive, police-free schools. We are calling for the removal of all law enforcement from schools and the creation of safe schools through positive safety and discipline measures such as restorative and transformative justice. Police are not and will never be the answer to preventing violence in schools. We must work to prevent violence before it happens. Relying on police to stop violence in schools does not work. Mass shootings stop when the shooter decides to end them, not police. There were at least three police jurisdictions on the scene, and they did not stop the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School. Police in schools lead to a criminalizing environment, targeting of Black students, LBGTQIA+ students and students with disabilities. There are alternatives that don’t rely on policing or hardening of schools.”

“Since 2018-2019, young folk have been calling for city leaders in D.C. to love us not harm us,” said Samantha Paige Davis, founder and executive director of the Black Swan Academy. “This includes a broad vision calling for investment in all polices, procedures, and resources to create safe, healthy and equitable learning environments. We also called for a divestment in policies, practices, procedures and resources that caused violence, harm and fear in our students in school buildings. This is what led us to call for police-free schools. In D.C. when we look at the impact of police in schools, we see that 100% of school-based arrests in our last school year prior to the pandemic were of students of color, 92% of arrests were of Black students and 32% of arrests were of students of color with disabilities. When we say police-free schools we are centering the most marginalized students in our schools and communities.”

“So many of us from across the country have been pushing for police-free schools for decades, said Joseph Williams, director, LA Students Deserve and organizer with Black Lives Matter in LA. “There has been a long history of organizing against school hardening and school police within LAUSD. We ended daily random searches where students were taken out of class and searched and criminalized. We ended ‘willful defiance’ as a category for discipline. We stopped the Los Angeles Police Department from receiving tanks and grenade launchers.”

Kaler-Jones added, “we’ve seen time and time again that police do not protect us but do the exact opposite – enact physical and psychological harm on Black people, students with disabilities, LGBTQIA+ students and others. Schools should be safe spaces where young people can learn and grow. This is not possible if police and policing infrastructure are present. Police cannot just be reformed or simply receive more training because their very existence was designed to preserve the system of enslavement. Policing as an institution has always operated in lockstep with its origins – to terrorize and control Black people.”

“We’ve done it your way – metal detectors, bullet proof doors, more police, surveillance – and the killings keep happening. How many more babies must die? It’s past time to try our way, with fidelity,” Tillman said.

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