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ACLU Students Not Suspects

Reprint of the release email:

Dear Friends,

Today, the ACLU of Washington released a report entitled ‘Students, Not Suspects:  The Need to Reform School Policing in Washington.” In our investigation of school police, we found that large numbers of Washington schools pay to have police stationed on campus on a daily basis, but that few schools provide meaningful training or oversight of school police.  In almost all districts, school police have authority to be involved in student discipline, and can refer children to the criminal justice system for minor crimes – including  for violating a law that prohibits disturbing school.  Having police on campus on a daily basis strengthens a school to prison pipeline, particularly for students of color and students with disabilities (who are disproportionately arrested at school nationwide).

The report calls on school districts and lawmakers to adopt specific reforms, including:

·         Invest Education Dollars in Student Support Services, Not Police: Washington schools should invest in counselors, mental health professionals, school social workers and other professionals trained in working with adolescents, including those facing trauma or mental health issues. Teachers and school administrators should be trained in positive and preventative systems to improve school climate and support students in meeting behavior expectations.

·         Involve Students, Parents and Community Members in Decision-Making Around School Policing: School districts should actively engage parents, teachers, school administrators, community members, and other stakeholders in the decision to place police in schools. Any placement of police in schools should be reviewed to ensure it does not exacerbate racial or income inequality. School/police relationships should be regularly reviewed by a community accountability board to determine whether the school/police relationship continues to meet school and community needs.

·         Amend Washington’s Disturbing Schools Statute: The legislature should amend the state’s “disturbing schools” statute to prevent students from being arrested and prosecuted for classroom misbehavior. If the law remains on the books, it should be limited to disruption by outsiders, not students.

·         Prohibit Police Involvement in Student Discipline: School districts and law enforcement agencies should develop clear contracts and policies to govern their relationship. Those policies should prohibit teachers and administrators from calling police unless a student’s behavior poses real and immediate risk of serious physical harm, and establish a clear list of school rule violations that will not warrant police involvement.

·         Ensure Transparency and Accountability of School Police: School districts should track and publish data on police activities on campus, and establish school-based complaint systems for students and families. School/police contracts should require school district input into officer hiring, regular communication with building administrators, and clear lines of authority over police officers in schools.

·         Require Training of Police Who Are Based in or Respond to Schools: Washington law should require that all police who respond to schools be trained in: Adolescent brain development; disability; trauma; mental health; implicit bias; de-escalation; crisis intervention; student privacy; and best practices in student discipline.

We hope this report is useful in your advocacy, and look forward to continuing to work with you on reform efforts.  Please feel free to get in touch if you have additional ideas or would like to stay involved with our efforts around these issues.


Vanessa Torres Hernandez
Youth Policy Director
ACLU of Washington
Preferred Gender Pronous:  she/her/hers
901 5th Ave # 630, Seattle, WA 98164
T: (206) 624-2184 x. 261   C: (206) 734-5044

Click the link below or attend the The Tacoma NAACP Education Committee meeting to get details on the report.

ACLU Washington With Download