Federal Civil Rights Data Shows Large Disparities in School Arrests, Fueled by Lack of Mental Health Staff

For Immediate Release: March 12, 2019
Contact: Heidi Uhing, Communications Director, huhing@aclunebraska.org, 402-476-8091 ext. 104

LINCOLN –The American Civil Liberties Union recently released a comprehensive analysis of Federal Civil Rights Data from 2015-16. The report highlights severely under-resourced schools and a failure to follow mental health professionals’ recommendations for adequate student support.  The ACLU’s report illustrates that while schools are undoubtedly under-resourced, policymakers are making deliberate decisions to allocate scarce budget resources to the wrong places: school hardening instead of student support as recommended by mental health professionals.

“Nebraska schools are making an ill-advised decision to establish or expand school police programs rather than investing in mental health support that could enrich students’ lives instead of exacerbating the school to prison pipeline, with disastrous impacts for students of color and students with disabilities,” said Rose Godinez, legal and policy counsel for ACLU of Nebraska. “In Nebraska, there is a ratio of 347 students to 1 counselor—which is 40 percent beyond best practices. 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.”

Nebraska highlights include:

  • 82 percent of Nebraska students attend schools that fail to meet the nationally recommended ratios for student-to-counselors, psychologists, nurses, and social workers;
  • over 71,128 of Nebraska students were in schools that reported law enforcement despite lacking critical mental and physical health personnel;
  • 347 students are served by a single school counselor – compared to already limited recommended student-counselor ratio of 250:1;
  • 23 percent of schools have cops but not counselors, psychologists, nurses, and/or social workers;
  • total school arrests averaged 7 per 10,000 students, but this equated to 11 Black students, 14 students with disabilities, and 34 Native American students arrested per 10,000 students;
  • Black students were more than twice as likely to be arrested as white students in Nebraska schools, while Latinx students were 1.5 times more likely and Native American students were 6 times more likely to undergo arrest; and
  • students with disabilities and Black students were each more than twice as likely as other Nebraska students to be referred to law enforcement.

For more information on the report, visit aclu.org/report/cops-and-no-counselors and aclu.org/schooldiscipline.


For over 50 years in Nebraska, the ACLU has worked in courts, legislatures, and communities to protect the constitutional and individual rights of all people. With a nationwide network of offices and millions of members and supporters, we take up the toughest civil liberties fights. Beyond one person, party, or side — we the people dare to create a more perfect union. Learn more at www.aclunebraska.org