ACLU slams Cincinnati schools and police for ‘over-policing’


A new study from the ACLU of Ohio has recommended that Cincinnati public schools address what the ACLU found to be inequities and “exclusionary discipline disparities,” in part by severing ties to service city ​​police.

The ACLU and its campaign for Smart Justice teamed up with the Young Activists Coalition to research school disciplinary practices from 2021 to 2022, and said the research showed “racially disparate discipline” in schools, “ perpetuating the damage and strengthening the school-to-prison channel.

The coalition waged a year-long campaign to get city cops out of city schools.

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The research was conducted by interviewing 400 parents and more than 100 recent graduates, the majority of whom (53% of parents and 65% of recent graduates) said they did not support the current contract between the school and the Cincinnati police, according to the study. .

The study found that black students were 21 times more likely to be placed in “alternative placement” centers at CPS and 10.5 times more likely to be placed in an “alternative learning center”, away of their peers. About 62% of CPS students were black in the 2020-21 school year, according to state data.

“The contract between the police and the district grants the CPD unilateral power over the school police, while the CPS remains in the dark,” the ACLU and the coalition concluded.

Parents and graduates said they would like to see changes to the police contract “to reform guidelines on use of force, training and accountability,” according to the report’s findings.

“Removing children from the learning environment is yet another way black, brown and disabled children are drawn into negative interactions with law enforcement at a young age, all too often resulting in arrests. and the irreparable consequences of being caught up in the mass incarceration system,” said ACLU Ohio legal officer Elena Thompson in announcing the study.

Bella Gordo, president of the coalition, said the group has “continually” educated the district about the racial disparities it has seen in schools through “direct calls, protests and many other methods.”

“We will not rest until the district fully commits to the fight against racism by replacing exclusionary discipline with restorative practices and ending the relationship between the Cincinnati Police Department and Cincinnati Public Schools,” Gordo said in a statement.

Other recommendations made in the study included investing in mental health services within schools, including an increase in the number of counselors and social workers in the district.

Cincinnati Public Schools said it was “aware of the disparities that exist, both nationally and locally, in the way students of color are disciplined.”

Iranetta Wright, the new Cincinnati Public School Superintendent, visited with students and teachers at Taft Information Technology High School on her first day on the job, Monday, May 2, 2022.

Superintendent Iranetta Wright said she plans to focus on student discipline as one of the assessments she will conduct during her first 100 days. It started on May 2.

“We need to put more emphasis on implementing and monitoring our restorative justice program in each school, integrating more social-emotional learning lessons into the program, better leveraging our mental health professionals and our social workers in each school and participate in joint training with SRO (school resources) to ensure they better understand their role in our schools,” Wright said in a statement to The Ohio Capital Journal.

But blaming school resource officers as the root cause of the “school-to-jail pipeline” does not address “the multiple needs and challenges that occur outside of school,” the district argued.

The SROs are not responsible for things like emergency dismissals, suspensions and/or expulsions, a statement from the district explained.

CPD did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Previous research done by the groups to analyze data from 2016 to 2021 showed that black students in the district were five times more likely to face “exclusionary discipline than their white peers.”

This study used public records requests to the police department and school district to examine policies and data “relating to (school resource officers) and student discipline” since 2016, as well as the protocol for agreement between the police and the school.

The data showed that 63% of CPSs were made up of black students, but also accounted for 93% of out-of-school suspensions and 89% of referrals to police.

“The vast majority of school incidents can and should be handled by teachers or school administrators and should not merit police involvement,” Thompson said.

State Sen. Cecil Thomas, D-North Avondale, who worked in the Cincinnati police force for nearly 30 years, agreed that having more mental health counselors should be a goal for the school system, although does not agree with the withdrawal of the police from the schools.

“I would say let’s not take the officers out of the schools, I would say let’s look at how we can help the students,” Thomas said. “It gives schools an opportunity to look at the training and overall intent of having officers in schools.”

Thomas said he hadn’t had a chance to dig deeper into the data in the report, but he hoped the study could be used as the school board begins working with a newly hired superintendent.

“Everything in the report raises red flags, and those red flags need to be given careful attention,” Thomas said.

Thomas hopes to garner bipartisan support for a bill he is co-sponsoring with State Sen. Tina Maharath, D-Canal Winchester, that would raise the minimum age to buy a gun to 21 but also increase funding Ohio Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports Grants, expanding the program to include all grade levels. The program is conducted by the Ohio Department of Education.

Gov. Mike DeWine committed $100 million in the last capital budget for ‘school safety grants,’ but it’s unclear whether those grants could be used for counselors or other mental health services. .

A new “Student Safety Advisory Council,” created last week by the governor’s office but first announced in April, “will develop strategies to encourage their peers to actively engage in maintaining a safe environment. safe school and will promote the general well-being of students. .” DeWine’s office said.

No deadline was given for the publication of the strategies.


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