Giving Compass' Take:
- Experts at The 74 examine how schools in Wisconsin called the police on students at twice the national rate, with the rate being highest for Indigenous students.
- What would schools look like without police intervention?
- Read about school resource officers’ deeply rooted racial bias.
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The 2017-18 school year was difficult at Lakeland Union High School. Disciplinary problems came in waves for the Oneida County school — in February 2018, two students were arrested for making terror threats — just days after the mass shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“That was a rough year,” said Chad Gauerke, the school principal. Lakeland referred over 6% of its students to police, including the two teenagers, whose separate threats shut down the school for a day.
Lakeland wasn’t the only Wisconsin district which saw a high level of police involvement that school year. Public schools in Wisconsin referred students to police twice as often as schools nationwide in 2017-18 — nine students were referred to police for every 1,000 students enrolled compared to the national rate of 4.5, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of U.S. Department of Education data found.
Just three states — New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia — reported higher rates of referral than Wisconsin.
The analysis of data from all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico found that school policing disproportionately affects students with disabilities, Black children and, in some states, Native American and Latino children. Nationwide, Black students and students with disabilities were referred to law enforcement at nearly twice their share of the overall student population.
In Wisconsin, students with disabilities and students of color also bore the brunt of school policing. In 2017-18, Wisconsin was more likely than any other state to refer Native students to law enforcement, reporting a rate over three times higher than the rate of referral for their white peers.
Diana Cournoyer, the executive director of the National Indian Education Association, called the numbers “appalling” and “disturbing.” But, she said, “I’m not surprised. Every Native person knows this, whether you’re in Wisconsin or not.”
That school year, Lakeland was at the top of the list in Wisconsin for referring Native students, and near the top of the list for referring students overall. In addition to the threats, Lakeland students were referred to police in 2017-18 for possessing drugs, alcohol and tobacco, Gauerke said.
Levi Massey, Lakeland’s assistant principal, said the district recognizes the disparity and is working to reverse it with “a school culture that creates a greater acceptance for all our students.”
Read the full article about schools calling the cops on students by Clare Amari, Corey Mitchell, Joe Yeradi, Susan Ferriss, Angelica Euseary, and Robert Chappell at The 74.