A new report finds that three of the five largest school districts in the country have more security officers on payroll than school counselors. In each of these districts, students of color make up the majority of the student body.
According to the data compiled by the education site The 74, New York City, Chicago, and Miami-Dade County all have more security staff—defined as police officers and school-based resource officers—than counselors and social workers who are there to help students with academic, behavior, and social issues. Once students reach high school, counselors are the people who play a pivotal role in getting them into college.
Although the American School Counselor Association recommends that there be one school counselor per 250 students, the data from the country’s largest school districts demonstrate that none come close to achieving this goal. In Houston, there is one security officer per 860 students, but only one counselor for every 1,288 students. Even more frightening is that some school districts – including Houston – have their own accredited police departments.
“I don’t think schools are an oasis from the racial problems that affect the rest of society,” said Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s racial justice program. “It reflects an approach to school discipline and school safety that is ultimately counterproductive. . . .If there were more emphasis on preventing problems rather than dealing with them when they happen, schools would ultimately be safer and students’ performance would be better.”
The report sheds more light on the national school-to-prison pipeline epidemic. With an increase in security personnel at schools, small infractions—like dress code violations—that would usually be handled by a school official are now handled by police and can result in the student being arrested. Students of color are disproportionately affected.
Just last year, cell phone footage captured a school resource officer attacking a female student at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina for allegedly refusing to leave the classroom after the teacher saw her using her cell phone. The #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh sparked national shock and outrage – but as the data from the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) reveals, it is a part of a national pattern. As AAPF’s co-founder Kimberlé Crenshaw wrote in the report, “Black Girls Matter: Pushed Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected,” girls of color face harsher school discipline than their white peers. Nationally, black girls are suspended a startling six times more than white girls, while black boys are suspended three times as often as white boys.