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Letter: Student outcomes improve under positive interactions

Student outcomes improve under positive interactions

Disturbing incidents do not just happen in the streets, but also in schools. The contentious relationship between police officers and people of color is mirrored throughout schools across the United States.

School resource officers are arresting and enacting harsh discipline practices toward students of color at alarmingly disproportionate rates. Extreme disciplinary policies, coupled with the increased presence of police, have created a detrimental environment for students to learn and develop. Given this connection, the questionable conduct of law enforcement within schools creates a direct linkage to a life of incarceration.

In the “school-to-prison” pipeline, students are removed from the classroom and placed into juvenile detentions centers or spend time at home, where the opportunity to learn has now been disrupted and taken away.

Exposure to the criminal justice system at such a young age is damaging to a student’s overall mental and emotional – and in many cases, physical – well-being, thus increasing their chances for negative interactions with law enforcement outside of school grounds. These patterns also lead to distrust in the educational system. Simply stated, this is wrong.

The prevalence of the far too punitive “zero tolerance” and discipline policies is just reason to revise school codes of conduct in exchange for positive interventions, restorative justice and therapeutic outcomes. The City of Buffalo did just this, which led to increased accountability on behalf of teachers and staff and decreased rates of suspensions.

Through positive action, schools can change the perception of crime and race as it pertains to these students of color.

Breanna McCoy


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