On July 29th, Senators Chris Murphy (CT) and Elizabeth Warren (MA), along with Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (MN) and Ayanna Pressely (MA) introduced the Counseling Not Criminalization Act to Congress. This bill diverts federal funding away from supporting the presence of police in schools and towards evidence-based and trauma informed services that address the needs of marginalized students.
The bill frames its aspiration as a federal equivalent of #defundthepolice in school environments through the following, “Since 1999, the Federal Government has invested more than $1,000,000,000 to subsidize the placement of police in schools, resulting in roughly 46,000 school resource officers patrolling the halls of elementary and secondary public schools across the Nation. A growing body of research has not found any evidence that school resource officers make schools safer, and school resource officers have been shown to increase the likelihood that children will be arrested, often by the school resource officer while on campus.”
If passed, the Counseling Not Criminalization Act will establish a $2.5 billion federal grant program through the Secretary of Education to replace “sworn law enforcement officers in elementary and secondary schools with personnel and services that support mental health and trauma-informed services; and to reform school safety and disciplinary policies so they reflect evidence-based practices that do not rely on the criminal justice system.”
We appreciate the efforts of the Senators and Congresswomen to meaningfully respond to pertinent issues of the day. We are hopeful that federal lawmakers will follow their lead and listen to the decades of grassroots organizing, as well as the countless studies and voices that demonstrate how hardening school environments, increased police presence and a lack of culturally-relevant support systems actually create the environment for students to be less safe and perform worse academically. Our nation’s students deserve supportive, relationship-centered environments at the core of their learning journey. School-based policing of any kind – in the form of security guards, school resource officers, truancy officers, ICE officers, and others – has no structural or institutional role towards achieving that end.
The Dignity in Schools Campaign started in 2006 when local grassroots and advocacy groups fighting to end school pushout came together to share information and strategies and build a common framework for dignity and human rights in our schools. As a national, member-led coalition, DSC works to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline. Our Counselors Not Cops campaign calls on schools, districts, states and federal policy-makers to remove any law enforcement assigned to be present on a regular basis in school.