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The role of police in schools: A discussion on ‘Radio Times’

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

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Notebook board chair Harold Jordan, senior policy analyst with the Pennsylvania ACLU, appeared on WHYY’s Radio Times this morning with Philadelphia Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel to discuss the role of police officers in schools. The topic recently got renewed attention after video went viral showing a sheriff’s deputy in South Carolina throwing to the floor and arresting a Black high school girl who would not leave her classroom.

Jordan wrote the recent report "Beyond Zero Tolerance: Discipline and Policing in Pennsylvania Public Schools." Bethel, who is retiring, will spend the next three years as the first Diana A. Millner Youth Justice Fellow at the Stoneleigh Foundation. He will work from Drexel University’s Juvenile Justice Research and Reform Lab to expand a successful pre-arrest diversion program for young people who have not had previous juvenile justice involvement.

Data have repeatedly shown that Black students and other students of color are disciplined in school at far higher rates – and given harsher penalties for the same offenses – than White students. The result has been a rise in student arrests and what is referred to as the school-to-prison pipeline, in which the path to prison starts with school infractions, like truancy and defiance, that are not in themselves criminal.

Deborah Gordon Klehr of the Education Law Center also participated in the conversation, emphasizing the need for specialized and mandatory training for school police officers in trauma, adolescent development, and tactics that will de-escalate conflict.

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