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Doubling Down on the School-to-Prison Pipeline in Worcester.

In 2012, the ACLU in collaboration with Citizens for Juvenile Justice released a report, “ARRESTED FUTURES,” that looked at the “Criminalization of School Discipline” in Boston, Springfield and Worcester.
Among its findings, the report noted that “In all three districts there were numerous arrests at school during the school day (“school- based arrests”) based on misbehavior that could have been addressed more appropriately by teachers and school staff, and with significantly less harm to students.
“These arrests were often justified using catch-all public order offenses (such as “disturbing a lawful assembly”), the report said.
“While there are undoubtedly many reasons why there are more public order arrests in Springfield than in Boston or Worcester, it appears that the manner in which Springfield deploys police officers in its public schools is a contributing factor.
“Springfield is the only district that has armed, uniformed police officers from the local police department stationed in selected schools for the entire duration of the school day. “
Despite the dire warning of the report, Worcester since then has stationed more police officers in its schools and appears committed to increasing their presence in the coming years.
In response to a Worcester Education Justice Alliance (WEJA) questionnaire, five of the six members of the newly elected school committee either supported “continuing to hire and station police officers in schools,” or chose not to answer the question directly.
This push towards militarizing the classroom runs contrary to best educational practices.
As the authors of “Arrested Futures” noted, “Recent studies have concluded that on-site police officers, particularly ones who use arrest as a means to resolve student discipline issues, do not make schools safer.”
The authors also noted research showed that “improved school safety can be achieved without the presence of school officers or a law enforcement approach to school discipline.”
“These studies found that safety in schools can be enhanced by increasing both structure and support: adopting rules that are strictly and fairly enforced and having adults at the school who are caring, supportive and willing to help students,” they argued.
Yet, according to the Urban Institute, “even as school shootings have renewed interest in the utility and prevalence of police officers in schools…more than two-thirds of high school students already attend a school with a police officer present.”
In addition, the Urban Institute said “students attending schools with a sizeable share of black and Hispanic students are more likely to be attending a school that has a police officer.”
On Wednesday, Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren wrote an op-ed for Essence on how her Criminal Justice Reform and K-12 education plan would work together to close the “School-to-Prison pipeline” for good.
Her plan would invest $800 billion into our public schools, including tripling Title I funding and investing in evidenced-based school safety measures.
In a press release, Sen. Warren said her plan would “demilitarize our schools, reduce police presence, and invest in counselors, nurses, psychologists, or social workers so that every student has access to the support they need.”
Her plan, she said, would also adopt “restorative justice programs that address the underlying drivers of behaviors that schools have come to criminalize: poverty, childhood trauma, homelessness, food insecurity, or a child living with the impact of a family member’s incarceration.”
At its bare minimum, restorative justice programs seek to promote conversations between the offender and victim of a crime in order to repair the harm done and to prevent such crimes in the future.
Yet, creating such programs in Worcester was supported by only three members of the newly elected school committee based on their answers to WEJA questionnaire.
One could conclude that the School-to-Prison Pipeline is a vital part of the city’s economic renaissance.
Why else in this age of enlightenment would it still continue to endure here?

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