Advocates for Black, Brown and other marginalized students say they fear that a return to normal this school year will put kids at risk of more than just catching COVID.
A civil rights-focused nonprofit, the Advancement Project, this week launched the National Campaign for Police Free Schools just as many students are returning to-person instruction for the first time since George Floyd was killed by officers in Minneapolis in 2020.
“We recognize that safety does not exist when Black and Brown young people are forced to interact with a system of policing that views them as a threat and not as students,” the organization’s website says.
One goal of the campaign is to organize Black and Brown students, students with disabilities, and immigrant and LGBTQIA+ youth to redefine school safety and “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.” Organizers also hope to create wider awareness of incidences of police violence across the U.S. education system, says Judith Browne Dianis, executive director of the Advancement Project’s national office.
“Too often, young people are assaulted by cops who are in their school hallways allegedly keeping them safe,” Dianis said during a web conference this week. “When we are talking about school safety, it’s important that we don’t just talk about COVID but we talk about police and state violence.”
The campaign brings together activists—such as Indigo Byers of the Oakland, Calif.-based Black Organizing Project—who have led successful campaigns to abolish school police forces. Byers was involved in the effort that ultimately led to the disbanding of Oakland USD’s police department.
About three dozen other districts have recently removed police from school buildings, Dianis added.
However, removing the police won’t completely solve the problem. The campaign also hopes to eliminate police-style discipline tactics from schools, including digital surveillance of students, organizers said.
The project’s website features an Assault Map, which charts and provides details about incidences of police violence against students that have been reported since 2007.
Also on the website, is the project’s “We Came to Learn” report, which covers a history of policing in schools and provides an overview of the #PoliceFreeSchools campaign.