Week 6: The Landscape of Policing – Policing our Children, SROs, School-to-Prison Pipeline
Supplies needed: candle, access to audio and video capabilities
Supplies needed: candle, access to audio and video capabilities
This week we’re moving into the part of the course where we discuss the extent to which policing is integrated into our lives. Today we’re discussing the role of policing in schools. School Resource Officers (SROs) are ubiquitous in public schools. But their presence requires resources and produces certain outcomes. These outcomes disproportionately impact students of color, and create a school to prison pipeline. Often, the need to keep schools safe obscures the systemic issues that lead to security concerns – hunger, homelessness, mental illness and lack of hope for the future.
Facilitator introduces the practice with these words:
We hold a minute of silence as we remember the messages given to Black and brown children about their lives and how their lives need to be policed. Hold in your mind a specific word or phrase.
After I light the candle say aloud a word or phrase we want children to hear about themselves (examples: “You are loved.” “You are wonderfully and perfectly made.”)
Hold the minute of silence.
Light the candle.
Invite the group to say aloud the word or phrase we want children to know about themselves.
The facilitator plays the following sound clip. Hold 60 seconds of silence following it.
Listen to Chantelle Todman share her story:
My children attended our local public school from kindergarten to second grade. During that time, I was actively involved in the school, including serving on the Student Advisory Council (SAC) throughout the duration. I was an advocate and believer in the value of quality local public schools for children, especially in Black and brown neighborhoods. I made sure the teachers and school administrators knew who I was and did frequent walkthroughs to see what the environment was like. Our school had an SRO (School Resource Officer) and she was often seen around the school grounds speaking with students. I didn’t have any personal negative interactions with her, but later on we got a new SRO who I noticed was not as friendly with the students.
As part of the SAC work, we decided to spend some time addressing our concerns regarding school climate and school discipline. We were noticing a high number of suspensions of students, including kindergarteners, something that stays on students’ permanent record and impacts their ability later on to get into magnet high schools. While we always had an SRO presence, the school didn’t have adequate numbers of teaching staff, school counselors or even a school nurse at various points – this was always named as a funding problem.
As I began to notice and talk more and more about the ways the school-to-prison pipeline was in effect at my local school, my kids were listening. One day they shared how they saw one of their classmates, a young, Black boy who was only in kindergarten, get handcuffed by police for his behavior. They were confused and concerned about how and why that happened. At that point, I realized that it was becoming normalized for my children to see themselves and their fellow Black students as problematic and criminalized for their behavior. Their young brains were trying to make sense of what they saw happen and part of that was normalizing the idea that children, any child, could “deserve” or “belong” in handcuffs.
I knew then that as much as I wanted to believe that it would be possible to have “good” police at the school to help keep students safe, ultimately they were part of a system set in place to monitor, control and criminalize Black and brown children.
Facilitator asks people to name different schools in their area. Invite participants to discuss these question
Facilitator reads the following:
Often in the United States, our problems do not stem from a lack of resources but from an inability to provide resources to those who need them most. Oftentimes policing in schools responds to the lack of resources by punishing those who do not have access. Police abolitionists want to see a redistribution of funds that would go to pay a school resource officer, instead go to providing resources for children and schools. Instead of treating children’s problems as requiring the intervention of police, abolitionists want to see these problems solved at the root.
Facilitator asks a volunteer to read the Scripture and then leads the discussion of the questions regarding scarcity and resources.
John 6:1-13 (NRSV)
After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near.
When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Six months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.”
One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all.
Then Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, “Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets.
Facilitator invites discussion of the passages.
Facilitator invites the group to look at the graphic (Source: EducationWeek). Then watch the video clip and discuss the statistics.
Click the graphic to enlarge.
“American Kids & The School-To-Prison Pipeline” video
The following video from the Marshall Project describes the school-to-prison pipeline, and how police in schools impact the futures of Black and brown students. [Link]
Questions for discussion:
Additional resources and reading
In the news