Bullies in Blue: The Problem with School Policing [Infographic]

Over the past 50 years, our schools have become sites of increased criminalization of young people—a disturbing fact that is even truer for poor Black and Latino communities. Today, police officers assigned to patrol schools can legally use physical force on students, arrest and handcuff them, and bring the full weight of the criminal justice system to bear on kids who are simply misbehaving. The primary role of police in schools is to enforce criminal laws, and virtually every violation of a school rule can be considered a criminal act if viewed through this police-first lens. Though these police are often referred to as “school resource officers,” their legal power and attending actions reveal that this designation only serves to mask that their presence has transformed schools into another site of concentrated policing. Such policing marks the start of the school-to-prison pipeline—the entry point to the criminal justice system for too many kids—and fuels mass incarceration.

Bullies in Blue: The Problem with School Policing

Philadelphia, PA
Brian, an 11th grader had an argument with a school police officer over using the restroom without a pass. The officer reportedly punched him in the face simultaneously with both fists and threw him to the ground in a chokehold. Brian, who is asthmatic, says that, “I felt like I was going to die that day.”

Kissimmee, Florida
Arm Bar
A Florida police school resource officer at Kissimmee Middle School slammed a 13-year-old boy to the ground and twisted his arm for over 40 seconds in a “torque hold.” The middle-schooler, who weighed 84 pounds, ended up with a sprained wrist and ankle after the officer’s takedown. The officer’s employment was terminated.

Stone Mountain, GA
A school resource officer at Pine Ridge Elementary handcuffed Patrick, a 6-year-old special needs student, after the boy ran away from his classroom. The cuffs left visible bruises on the boy’s wrists. “It hurts when I touch it,” said the first grader.

Louisville, KY
2015 When a 13-year-old pushed a Louisville Metro Police officer in the hallway of Olmsted Academy North, the officer picked the boy up by his neck and choked him, rendering him unconscious for 20 seconds.

Arlington, Texas
Ixel, a 16-year-old at Sam Houston High School, was pinned to the floor by three officers, two of whom pinned her face to the floor. She had been caught using a cell phone in class and declined to relinquish it because she was talking to her mother who suffers from serious medical conditions.

Murfreesboro, TN
Police handcuffed and arrested ten students, ages 6 to 11, at Hobgood Elementary School in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. The arrests were made because the students did not stop an off-campus fight days earlier. The children were charged with "criminal responsibility for conduct of another" which according to Tennessee criminal offense code includes incidents when a "person fails to make a reasonable effort to prevent" an offense.

Learn more, visit aclu.org/bullies-in-blue

Bullies in Blue

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