We have officially entered another era of racial reckoning. It is a time when events bring the country’s lengthy history of slavery and racial oppression to the forefront of its consciousness. Once again we are painfully reminded that Black folks are still trying to undo the damage done from centuries of slavery and the Jim Crow laws. We hope this renewed reckoning will help the majority of Americans understand the health and future of the country suffers because the genius and talents of millions of Americans have been bottled up because of the color of their skin. That talent unleashed would truly make America great.
Carter G. Woodson wrote about the miseducation of the Negro in his landmark book in 1933 and the failure to provide adequate and wholesome education for descendants of slaves. That debate and struggle continues to this day. Black and brown students are once again the pawns of a pitted struggle to determine how best to make public schools safer and more effective learning environments. Activists on one side insist schools cannot be safe without police and competing activists argue the very presence of police in schools is toxic.
There seems to be general consensus that having more social workers, nurses, and other service providers would be useful in addressing the needs of students, particularly students of color who have experienced traumatic incidents. One could understand, given the number of publicly-aired police shootings, why the presence of police in schools might be traumatic for some students.
Tomorrow CRISP, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW), the American Council of School Social Workers, the School Social Work Association of America, and the School Social Work Network will host a virtual Congressional Briefing in conjunction with the Congressional Social Work Caucus of which Rep. Barbara Lee (C-13) is the chair. The 90-minute Wednesday briefing titled, Bringing the Power of Social Work to Schools, will begin at 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time and will feature a panel of educators and practitioners who work in and around schools.
Moderated by yours truly, the panel will include: Pia V. Escudero, executive director of the Student Health and Human Services (SHHS) division in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second largest school district in the United States; Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, a nonprofit organization founded in 1991 for school-based law enforcement officers, school administrators and school security; Dr. Ron Avi Astor, the Marjorie Crump Professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs whose work focuses on bullying and violence in school settings; and Sandra D. Shephard, a member of Maryland’s Prince George’s County Board of Education.
Panelists will examine the merits of the bill, H.R. 7848—Counseling Not Criminalization Act, recently introduced by Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7) and Ilhan Omar (D-MN-5) in the House of Representatives. A companion bill—S. 4360—was introduced in the Senate by Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Chris Murphy. The bills seek to eliminate federal funding for school-based law enforcement and “establish a continuum of care and positive schoolwide systems of services that are evidence-based, inclusive, racially and gender responsive, and trauma informed.” The bill was spurred by the Black Lives Matter-led effort to defund the police of certain responsibilities that many feel can best be done by community-led entities.
Views about defunding police are mixed. According to a recent Pew survey, while just 28 percent of blacks say the police do any excellent or favorable job of protecting them, 55 percent say funding for police should remain the same (33%) or increase (22%). A study of students’ perceptions in New Orleans middle and high schools found that 40 percent of black students (compared to 69% of white students) felt the presence of police made them feel safer. While a minority of the black students, it is a significant number of students who felt having police in schools made them feel safer.
There are schools and communities who want police in their schools, particularly communities dealing with a high incidence of drugs and crime or may be overrun with gangs. All police are not bad. I know a few cops I would want as my neighbors. There are no better angels in communities than good cops. Police do not belong in every school. Schools would be better off if more funding is provided social workers, nurses, and other service providers. But let’s be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water.