WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), both members of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on Wednesday unveiled legislation that would prohibit federal funds for police in schools, diverting existing resources towards the use of counselors, social workers, and other services and supports to help marginalized students and improve educational outcomes. Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act would also provide a standalone grant program for districts to replace police personnel with counselors, social workers and other health providers. U.S. Representatives Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced the companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. This legislation is supported by the American Federation of Teachers, National Education Association, NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Law and Social Policy, SPLC Action Fund, Human Rights Campaign, National Urban League, the Justice Collaborative, Girls Inc. Advancement Project, Open Society Policy Center, the Center for Popular Democracy, National Women’s Law Center, Center for Disability Rights, Drug Policy Alliance, National Center for Learning Disabilities, National Disability Rights Network, the Daniel Initiative, the Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates, the Criminalization of Poverty Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, the National Center for Youth Law, Education Law Center (PA), PolicyLink, the Boston Teachers Union, the Lawyers for Civil Rights Boston, National Black Child Development Institute (NBCDI), and GLSEN.
“Police shouldn't be in schools. There are plenty of better ways to ensure that our schools are safe places to learn, and Congress needs to understand how police in schools ends up with the wrong kids getting arrested for minor disciplinary actions and resources being drained from more effective programs. And we know that Black and Latino kids are disproportionately affected, as they are referred and arrested at drastically higher rates than their white peers. If we are going to begin to tackle systemic racism in this country, we must start by addressing the racial inequities in our education system, and getting police out of classrooms is a necessary first step,” said Murphy. “In Connecticut, in the wake of a horrific school shooting, many schools hired police officers to enhance the peace of mind of parents. But now we have plenty of evidence to show that there are far better ways to ensure kids' safety, and that these police officers are contributing to a civil rights crisis that we must address.”
“Every student should be able to learn in a setting free from fear,” said Pressley. “But for too many young people—particularly Black and brown students, immigrant students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and other historically marginalized students—the very presence of police officers in schools increases the likelihood that they will be criminalized and put on a path to confinement for everyday childhood behavior. Instead of criminalizing our students and funding an ever growing police presence in our public schools, it’s time to finally invest in the critical staff like counselors, nurses and social workers who actually make our schools safer. The Counseling Not Criminalization Act is bold legislation that will disrupt the school to confinement pathway by prohibiting federal funds from being used to over-police and criminalize our students and instead encourages schools to invest in the trauma informed personnel and health care staff necessary to equip all students to learn and thrive.”
“Counselors, nurses, social workers, and educators belong in schools. Police do not,” said Warren. “Our bill will bring us one step closer to ending the militarization of our public schools that disproportionately hurts Black and Brown students, ending the school-to-prison pipeline, and ensuring we give every child the resources they need to feel safe and thrive.”
“Schools should be places of learning, not law enforcement. As a mother of three beautiful Black children and a Minneapolis public schools graduate, I have seen firsthand how Black and brown children are disproportionately punished, reprimanded, suspended and expelled in our schools,” said Omar. “In Minneapolis, black students are 41% of the student population, but make up three quarters of all suspensions. At one middle school in my district, African American students were 338% more likely to be suspended than their white peers last year. If we’re going to tackle systemic racism, we need to start at childhood. That means getting police out of schools. I am proud to lead this bill with Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Chris Murphy and Rep. Ayanna Pressley—and look forward to our partnership in getting this passed into law.”
Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act seeks to:
Divert federal funding away from supporting the presence of police in schools and toward evidence-based services that address the needs of marginalized students and improve academic outcomes; and support local education agencies that want to terminate their contracts with local law enforcement agencies and invest public funding in personnel and services that create safe and inclusive schools for all students.
Click here for a one-pager on the legislation.