School-based policing is one of the fastest growing areas of law enforcement. Yet, as “False Sense of Security” highlights, experts on school climate and the school-to-prison pipeline have identified serious equity and safety concerns with having police in schools. Educators can use this toolkit to reflect on school-based policing in a working group and to conduct a school climate survey among colleagues.
How does school-based policing affect school climate?
1. Establish a working group.
Establish a working group seeking to understand more—and to take actionable steps—around school-based policing in your school and district. The working group should include a member of the school administration. Read the “Dear Colleague” letter on school discipline that the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice jointly issued in January 2014. In the appendix that accompanies the letter, you will find recommendations for school districts, administrators, teachers and staff. Consider printing out copies of this appendix, and as a group, marking next to each recommendation if your school or district already employs it in some variation or not.
2. Facilitate a conversation.
Facilitate a conversation on the “Dear Colleague” letter and its recommendations. Your working group may also be interested in consulting other resources (examples listed below) before delving into this conversation.
This report from the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, published in February 2015, examines disciplinary practices and the role of police in public schools in Pennsylvania. While it’s a state-level analysis, the questions posed and conclusions drawn hold relevance far beyond Pennsylvania schools.
First issued by the Dignity in Schools Campaign in 2012, this resource presents a human-rights approach to school-based policing and actionable recommendations for various stakeholders, including schools, districts and legislators.
The School Discipline Consensus Report: Strategies from the Field to Keep Students in School and Out of the Juvenile Justice System
This 2014 report from the Council of State Governments’ Justice Center offers a comprehensive look at school discipline policies and practices, including school-police partnerships.
A feature story published in the Spring 2013 issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine that distils the multi-faceted phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline and offers recommendations on how to divert the pipeline.
3. Draft a survey.
Draft a survey to gauge school personnel’s perception of school climate, particularly as it relates to school-based policing. Determine if the survey will be anonymous or not—and prepare a reason for why. Then, come up with a list of questions to ask staff, excluding police officers or security personnel employed in your district. These might be:
- How many police officers work at your school?
- Are the police officers at your campus working on a full-time or part-time basis?
- At what points of your workday do you encounter police officers on campus?
- At what locations on campus do students typically encounter police officers?
- Do you call on police officers to help handle routine disciplinary matters?
- Do your colleagues call on police officers to help handle routine disciplinary matters?
- Have you intervened in a situation involving an officer and a student? Explain.
- Does your school district have a memorandum of understanding or an intergovernmental agreement with the police department?
- Are you aware of the types of trainings that police who work in your school district receive annually?
- Does your school or district publish data, annually, on school-based referrals, ticketing and arrests?
- Do you believe that the presence of police officers make your school a safer place for students? For staff?
- What concerns, if any, do you have with school-based policing?
4. (If necessary) present the survey to the larger school administration for review or approval.
Along with the drafted questions, describe the purpose and scope of your data collection. Secure permissions as required.
5. Distribute and collect the surveys.
School-based policing is often an emotionally charged and polarizing topic. Do not expect consensus on this issue among your colleagues or that all of them will feel comfortable completing the survey, whether it is anonymous or not.
6. Compile the data and summarize results.
Together with the working group, access the survey results. What stands out? Are there any ambiguities? Do you observe shared concerns? Will the working group address any of these concerns?
7. Determine next steps.
How will you share the results? What would you like to happen next? Consider writing a letter to the administration or school board that captures the results and describes what your working group would like to happen next.