Data and Public Reporting Urgently Needed
In a joint request to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Acting Commissioner of Education Kevin Dehmer, Education Law Center (ELC) and the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey (ACLU-NJ) are urging Governor Phil Murphy’s Administration to improve data collection and public reporting on the presence of police in New Jersey schools and the use of public school funding for such purposes.
ELC and the ACLU-NJ are also seeking a statewide ban on using the nearly $300 million in “security aid” provided to districts under the state’s funding formula to pay for police officers, and to instead direct the funds to support research-based practices designed to improve and strengthen school safety and climate.
“Since the murder of George Floyd in May, a racial and social justice movement has been growing in our communities and across the country demanding an end to a law enforcement approach to school safety, which disproportionately impacts Black and Latinx students,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director. “The Murphy Administration must start by providing the public with detailed data and information on the deployment and cost of law enforcement personnel by school districts across the state.”
The ACLU-NJ and ELC are recommending a joint effort by the Attorney General and the Department of Education to:
- Create a public statewide repository of all agreements signed by school districts with local law enforcement agencies.
- Develop a publicly available data set to accompany the school safety annual report with every school’s suspension rates, police referrals and arrests by category of offense (from minor infractions to more serious types of offenses), broken out by race, gender, disability and grade level.
- Publicly report the number and type of law enforcement officers deployed in school districts on the annual NJ performance report, as well as the funding source for each law enforcement officer employed by the district.
- Expand NJ’s use of force portal to include documentation of any use of force by law enforcement personnel in a school setting.
- Adopt rules governing expenditure of the nearly $300 million in categorical “security aid” distributed annually through the School Funding Reform Act (SFRA), including prohibition of the use of such aid to hire police officers and instead promote research-based practices to improve school safety and climate.
In presenting these proposals, the ACLU-NJ and ELC note Attorney General Grewal’s strong public commitment “to a criminal justice system that is fair, transparent, and free of bias” and that seeks “to promote the culture of professionalism, accountability, and transparency.” The Attorney General has further pledged that “we must do more, and we are committed to working with our partners in law enforcement and the broader community to identify additional opportunities for improvement.”
“As we reckon with the racial biases in our criminal-legal system, it’s particularly important for the Attorney General and Department of Education to re-examine and scale back the use of law enforcement in our public schools,” said Jeanne LoCicero, ACLU-NJ Legal Director. “We know policing in schools results in the racially discriminatory application of suspensions, expulsions, and referrals to the criminal justice system, and that in turn creates an environment in which many students feel less safe overall.”
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