Iowa is one of the worst states in the country in its discrepancy rate between arrests of Black and white students. So in response to this and other increased concerns about police in Iowa schools, the ACLU of Iowa has create a toolkit for local communities to advocate for the removal of police officers who work full-time or part-time in public schools.
The problem with police officers in schools is that they focus on precisely what they are trained to do—question, detain, handcuff, and arrest. This had led to extreme racial disparities in the treatment of Black students, with Black students in Iowa being 7.7 times more likely to be arrested than white students, the third worst discrepancy rate in the country, according to the most current federal civil rights data.
The Advocating for Police-Free Schools in Iowa Toolkit includes background information, advocacy tips, sample documents, and Iowa-specific data analysis of the disparities caused by the full-time presence of police in schools. It can be used by anyone including youth, parents and caregivers, educators, and other community members.
Research shows that having full-time police officers (often called school resource officers or SROs) patrol school hallways can do more harm than good. Experts have connected the presence of full-time police officers in schools with elevated school-related arrest rates, especially for students of color and students with disabilities.
Arrests and referrals to law enforcement create criminal records that follow students around for the rest of their lives, making lifelong access to housing, employment, and social services much more difficult.
Meanwhile, no conclusive evidence shows that full-time police presence in schools keeps students safer.
In recent years, students, parents, community members, and educators have taken matters into their own hands to right these wrongs. Advocates in Des Moines and Ames successfully pushed school boards to eliminate SRO programs in their schools. This toolkit aims to help other community members across Iowa do the same.
The toolkit is viewable on our interactive webpage.