ACLU: Nebraska schools should employ counselors, not police

March 15, 2019

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — More than 71,000 students attended Nebraska schools during the 2015-2016 academic year that employed police as school resource officers but that lacked counselors, psychologists, nurses and social workers, according to a study by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU found that 23 percent of Nebraska students were in schools with police but without those other support positions, compared to a national rate of 30 percent, the Lincoln Journal Star reported. The group analyzed federal Office for Civil Rights figures from the 2015-2016 school year.

About 80 percent of Nebraska students were at schools that fell below national recommended ratios for students-to-counselors, psychologists, nurses and social workers.

“This data should be a clarion call to all hard-working, compassionate school board members and superintendents that it’s time to prioritize counselors over cops to ensure all Nebraska students can access a high-quality public education,” said Rose Godinez, legal and policy counsel for the ACLU of Nebraska.

The ACLU opposes having police in schools, citing studies that show minority students and those with disabilities are disproportionately arrested, suspended and expelled. Schools instead should allocate funds to hire mental health professionals, ACLU officials said.

Proponents of putting police in schools say it improves safety and helps students develop positive relationships with the police.

Lincoln Public Schools is working to bring more social workers, school psychologists and counselors to the district as part of a broader effort to make schools safer, said Russ Uhing the district’s director of student services.

“That is not done in isolation,” he said. “It’s a coordinated effort around staffing, mental health supports and partnerships with the community. It’s diversion programs, it’s a calm, safe predictive environment ... all of those things work to keep a positive climate and culture.”


Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com

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