GSAFE urges Madison schools to invest in students, not police
The Madison Metropolitan School District Board of Education will meet to discuss its contract with the Madison Police Department regarding Education Resource Officers (ERO) in schools on Monday, August 8 th , from 6 to 7:30PM at the Doyle Administrative Building.
GSAFE encourages MMSD to emphasize alternatives to police presence in schools and invest in long-term outcomes. Alternatives that promote education and healing include restorative practices, food programs, after-school programs, more social workers and counselors, [de-escalation training for district staff], and educators who reflect the diverse backgrounds and identities of our students.
Additionally, Madison schools must continue to reduce bias amongst staff and the subjective application of policies that disproportionately impact LGBTQ and youth of color. Alternatives to the police allow us to invest in students in meaningful ways and decriminalize students’ mistakes and behavior.
Nationally and locally, certain students are disproportionately disciplined and arrested in schools. In Madison, where police are present in most high schools and diverse middle schools, we see our school district following this trend with disproportionate arrests and incarceration of youth of color, LGBTQ youth, impoverished youth and youth with disabilities.
“While the police can make important contributions to our community, the impact of having police in our schools has led to a disproportional impact on marginalized students,” said Ali Muldrow, GSAFE’s Racial Justice Youth Organizer. “When police involvement in school situations lead to arrest, they disproportionately arrest LGBTQ youth, youth of color, as well as impoverished and disabled youth. Police are often used to deny certain students their right to an education rather than to protect it. “
One role of police in Madison schools is to address student behavior that had previously been handled by school staff. Mistakes and behaviors that are developmentally common for students as they develop towards adulthood, and in turn the students themselves, become criminalized with police involvement.
“Arresting kids for being kids is developmentally inappropriate,” said Muldrow. “It denies them access to education. Our focus should be on helping students learn and heal from their mistakes, not on funneling them into the juvenile justice system.” For students whose communities already feel over-policed, a police presence in school can increase levels of anxiety and reduce feelings of safety.
There will be an opportunity for Madison constituents to attend the meeting and voice concerns about the presence of law enforcement in schools. The Board of Education will be holding a special meeting to discuss the ERO contract this upcoming Monday at 5pm and the Operations Work Group will be meeting at 5:45pm which is open to public comments. Those who wish to give public comments about the contract can sign up for this meeting to speak and should arrive by 5:30pm to register.