The Providence Alliance for Student Safety Coalition releases plan for student safety: Police Free Schools

“Police are trained to handle crime and disturbances out in the community, they aren’t familiarized with situations in a school environment,” said Fatoumata Diallo, a student leader in Young Voices. “Therefore it’s up to our school system to give students the support they need to be safe and excel instead of relying on police who are often making situations worse than better.”
Photo for The Providence Alliance for Student Safety Coalition releases plan for student safety: Police Free Schools

Published on June 21, 2021
By Uprise RI

In their detailed plan students demand that the Governor and Commissioner support their call for Counselors Not Cops

The Providence Alliance for Student Safety (PASS) Coalition released the PASS Plan for Student Safety today. The detailed plan addresses how students must be made safer and more successful in school by:

  1. Removing police officers from Providence Public Schools and;
  2. Making significant investments instead in culturally responsive professionals who will work full time in the schools to support the mental health, emotional well-being, and overall success of PPSD students, 90+% of whom identify as black, indigenous, and students of color.

From the Plan for Student Safety:

  • The presence of armed police officers has also been shown to correlate with a drop in students’ academic success, most notable among marginalized youth populations. The presence of uniformed, armed officers in schools makes some students – particularly Black and Latinx students – feel unsafe. (pg. 5)
  • After the Parkland shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, a federal judge ruled that neither the school district nor the sheriff’s office had any obligation to protect the students and staff killed or injured by the shooter. If SROs (School Resource Officers) are not necessary for ordinary school functioning and cannot be relied on in an active crisis, there is no case for their presence. (pg. 11)
  • We propose that the District vest control over student safety and accountability in a committee of Youth Advocates and community allies, selected by youth. This youth-led committee will have control over school safety – abolishing punitive disciplinary policies, defining the actions schools will take to address disciplinary issues without the intervention of police, and guiding the design and implementation of transformative justice policies. (pg. 4)
  • We need restorative practices to end the racist patrimony of punishment which has systematically criminalized Black and brown students in the PPSD. We demand the District make a long-term commitment to a restorative justice transformation in order to create schools where all students, especially BIPOC students, can thrive. (p. 25) 
  • Our schools need training and coordination to shift from punitive discipline to restorative practices. We call for strong district leadership, community engagement, innovative restorative staff positions, and funding for a 5+ year timeline to introduce a district-wide transformation toward restorative school culture and practices. (p. 4)

The PASS Plan for Student Safety cites evidence from academic research, policy reports, and data from within and outside Rhode Island, that clearly establishes that the presence of police officers in schools does not protect students and instead results in criminalization of black and brown students, increased arrests and punitive discipline, assaults on students, reduced academic performance, and increased alienation of students from schools. The Plan does not stop by identifying the problem and the research in support of the conclusion that police officers in schools are harmful. It goes on to present detailed demands, based upon best practices and investments made in well-functioning school districts, for the replacement of police with mental health, health, social work and emotional support resources, including restorative justice practices and personnel in the schools.

From PASS Plan for Student Safety

The PASS Coalition is made up of six youth-led organizations: Alliance of Rhode Island Southeast Asians for Education (ARISE), Providence Student Union (PSU), Providence Youth Student Movement (PRYSM), Rhode Island Urban Debate League (RIUDL), Youth In Action (YIA) and Young Voices. PASS was formed in December 2019 when the youth community decided to come together to demand an increase in support for students in schools while eliminating SROs from the Providence schools. PASS knows that Police Free Schools are not out of reach. In the past year school boards in Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle have removed armed police from the schools.

The students are calling on Governor Daniel McKee and Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, who have seized the authority and responsibility for the entire management of the Providence Public Schools through a state takeover, to immediately remove police and invest in student support.

Michellet Brand, a student leader in PSU said:

“Governor McKee, I was in a meeting with you this past week and as a youth, a youth of color, a student, a community member, as someone who sees the damages and harm SRO’s do to our schools, my voice was dismissed with countless others. I don’t know how much clearer the information needs to be for you to understand that SRO’s are not the solution to keeping our students safe. Mental health resources are needed because we deserve it; we are not dangerous, we are simply students trying to go to school.”

Samia Nash, a youth organizer with ARISE said:

“Historically, we’ve seen the heavy enforcement of policing in Black and Brown communities and seeing that same type of enforcement within the schools in this community seems to set a pattern and idea that Black and Brown students are not to be trusted. Quite often, when a situation that could easily have been de-escalated by having a conversation with counselors is handled by SROS, a child is arrested for a minor offense. These children are arrested in a place of education, expected safety, and recreation. Seeing these sorts of events within schools makes one feel like they can’t be or feel safe anywhere. It results in a pattern of students dropping out, skipping school, or seeing their grades drop.”

Fatoumata Diallo, a student leader in Young Voices said:

“Police are trained to handle crime and disturbances out in the community, they aren’t familiarized with situations in a school environment, therefore it’s up to our school system to give students the support they need to be safe and excel instead of relying on police who are often making situations worse than better.”

Ramona Santos Torres, Parent of a PPSD Student and Executive Director of Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE) said:

“Removing School Resource Officers from all learning spaces will move us closer to creating schools that are restorative and regenerative for our children. As parents/caregivers/caretakers, we must and will fight to end the violence and criminalization of our Black and Brown children at the hands of the police. We are proud and inspired by our young people leading the way to dismantle oppressive systems and building the education space our children truly deserve.”

Deijah Prak-Preaster, ARISE Youth Organizer said:

“As a PPSD student we are told SRO’s are there to keep us safe, but more and more we hear about stories surrounding harmful actions being done by those who are supposed to protect. Being someone of mixed race and someone that suffers from mental health problems, going to school is already hard. Students, more specifically black and brown kids, shouldn’t have to worry about being arrested or detained inside a place that’s supposed to be safe. As one of these students I’m asking Governor McKee to get rid of SRO’s and replace them with trained counselors whose main focus is to help students like me. After attending the PASS coalition meeting with the Governor, it is clear that the Governor truly doesn’t understand the harmful acts being done to not only PPSD students but students all over. Which is unacceptable.”

From PASS Plan for Student Safety

For more information about PASS, visit here.

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