TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Over the last few years, we’ve seen a push for more police presence in schools in the wake of shootings on campus, most notably the deadly Parkland shooting. Now, students in Florida are more likely to interact with law enforcement at school than a nurse, social worker or school psychologist, according to a study from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida.
According to the study, during the 2018-19 school year, there were more than 3,600 police officers working in schools across Florida while there were only 2,286 school nurses. On top of that, ACLU of Florida reports the number of police officers in schools more than doubles the number of social workers and school psychologists.
With more law enforcement officers on campus, ACLU of Florida teamed up with Florida Social Justice in Schools Project, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), the League of Women Voters of Florida and Equality Florida to conduct a study to see if the heightened security actually helps the students.
The findings from the study suggested that students are more likely to be reported to law enforcement and possibly arrested with increased security.
“In the past five years, police officers arrested kids younger than 11 years old 2,164 times. In fiscal year 2018-19 alone, police officers arrested elementary-aged kids 345 times, including an arrest of a 5-year-old and five arrests of 6-year-olds. This is simply not okay,” said Charlotte Nycklemoe, LWVFL Juvenile Justice Committee Co-Chair, in a press release.
Dr. Chris Curran, an associate professor and director with the University of Florida Education Policy Research Center, said “There is little evidence that the presence of law enforcement has decreased student misconduct or otherwise made schools safer.”
Dr. Curran added that the study suggests the “need for dialogue among policymakers and educators about whether law enforcement presence is appropriate in schools, and, if present, how they are used.”
With the research findings and the pandemic in mind, ACLU reports advocacy groups are urging lawmakers to rethink policing on campus and consider the resources it takes to enhance “police presence at schools that struggle to provide enough textbooks and, now, hand sanitizer for their students”
“Lawmakers and the MSD High School Public Safety Commission need to rethink these policies. They have had the unintended consequences of making schools less safe, more hostile and harmful for too many of Florida’s students,” said Bacardi Jackson, managing attorney at SPLC Action Fund, in a press release.
Jackson added in the press release, “From pushes for the proliferation of guns in the hands of inadequately trained civilians on school campuses to Florida’s excessive and unprecedented use of the Baker Act on over 35,000 children a year, our lawmakers have erected far too many barriers to creating safe and effective learning environments in which all children can thrive.”
The study outlined other recommendations, like urging lawmakers to pass minimum requirements for training of police in schools, minimum age for arrest and to rely less on use-of-force methods, like tasers and pepper spray, against children.
You can check out the detailed findings of ACLU Florida's study here: