Posted on December 24, 2018

ACLU Report Questions Police Presence in Schools, Says Programs Fuel ‘School to Prison’ Pipeline

Martha Stoddard, Omaha World-Herald, December 22, 2018

A report by the ACLU, released Thursday, found that school police programs fuel a “school to prison” pipeline and disproportionately affect students of color and students with disabilities.


“As a result of having a permanent police presence in schools, children are far more likely to be subject to school-based arrests for disciplinary matters than they were a generation ago,” said Rose Godinez, a co-author of the report and a state ACLU legal and policy counsel.

“A school-based arrest is the quickest route from the classroom to the courthouse,” she said.

The report was based on information provided by 34 school districts that employed or contracted with law enforcement agencies during the 2015-16 school year and by the 18 law enforcement agencies that worked with those districts.

Key findings include:

  • A total of 1,502 students in public schools with school police were referred to law enforcement during the 2015-16 school year. But about 200 of those were for wellness checks, traffic offenses, truancy and offenses occurring off school grounds.
  • {snip}
  • And 56 percent of Nebraska districts with school police do not require that a parent be notified when their child is questioned about an incident at school. {snip}
  • In some school districts, students of color account for twice as large a share of those referred to police than their share of the student population. The same goes for students with disabilities.

For example, students of color account for 33 percent of the students in the Lincoln Public Schools but 70 percent of those referred to police. In the Omaha Public Schools, students with disabilities are 18 percent of the student population but 44 percent of those referred.

Russ Uhing, LPS director of student services, said the district is aware of the disparities and has been working to address them. Efforts include diversion programs for students, training for school administrators and school resource officers about when referrals are appropriate and strategies to encourage good behavior and prevent problem behavior in schools.

In Omaha, Police Capt. Russ Horine said additional data would be helpful for understanding the apparent disparities but noted that referral decisions are made by school officials.


“The data presented in this report is shocking but, unfortunately, unsurprising,” said Juliet Summers, policy coordinator at Voices for Children in Nebraska. {snip}