LINCOLN, Neb. – Today a coalition of nonprofit organizations and community groups sent a joint letter to Nebraska school district superintendents and board members, urging them to end their school police programs and reinvest resources into counseling and mental health services.
Co-signers include the ACLU of Nebraska, Black and Pink, Education Rights Counsel, Educators for Black Lives, I Be Black Girl, the Lincoln Branch of the NAACP, the Nebraska Indian Education Association, Urban League of Nebraska Young Professionals and Voices for Children.
The letter follows a weekend of racial justice protests in Omaha where hundreds of educators and students called for an end to routine policing of schools.
Forty-three Nebraska school districts have sworn law enforcement officers in their schools. As shown in the ACLU report “From the Classroom to the Courtroom,” Nebraska’s students of color and students with disabilities are significantly overrepresented in school law enforcement referrals. For example, the 2018 report found a third of students in the Lincoln Public School District were students of color but two-thirds of the district’s referrals to law enforcement were for students of color
The letter urges action to address Nebraska’s school-to-prison pipeline, a national trend where students – many of them students of color – are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems when behavioral problems are criminalized.
“As long as schools prioritize punishment over treatment and services, at-risk students will be pushed out of schools and onto the path of delinquency. This hurts us all. Too many schools are wrongly investing in security systems and hiring police officers rather than spending these scarce resources on counselors, mental health support, and other services that could enrich students’ lives while preparing them for the future,” the letter reads in part.
In the last two months, school boards across the nation have voted to remove police from schools, including in Denver, Colorado; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Madison, Wisconsin.