Two in every five young people feel unsafe seeing police officers in schools, a new survey released by the Center for Popular Democracy shows.

The center, along with youth organizations New York’s Urban Youth Collaborative, Make the Road New Jersey, Make the Road Nevada and Oregon’s Latinos Unidos Siempre, surveyed 600 students on their experiences, interactions and feelings about police and security at school.

The survey found more than two thirds of students thought police should be removed from schools; one in five students reported police verbally harassed or made fun of young people in school; and two out of every five young people surveyed felt unsafe seeing police in schools.

The findings of the survey have been released in the new report, Arrested Learning: A survey of youth experiences of police and security at school.

Center for Popular Democracy Senior Policy and Campaign Strategist Kate Terenzi said the school-to-prison-and-deportation pipeline was one of the most “egregious examples of systemic racism and state-sanctioned violence in the country.”

“For too long abusive policing has dominated school hallways and stifled students’ education, funneling them into the criminal legal system,” she said.

“Students deserve more than an education system that is hell-bent on criminalizing them instead of providing them with the resources they need to succeed.”

The report shows details how students often feel targeted by police; how they have seen sexual harassment by police; how students have regular, negative interactions with police and security; and that they overwhelmingly favor additional resources and supports — like mental health resources, more teachers and dedicated youth programs to increase college access — over more funding for police and security.  

In a press release, CPD said for more than three decades, Black and brown young people, parents, educators, and communities had organized to dismantle the school-to-prison-and-deportation pipeline.

“As a core feature of that fight, young people have relentlessly called to remove police from schools. The results of this survey clearly reinforce what young people have already known to be true: police and security at school do not make them safe,” the release said.

Urban Youth Collaborative Youth Leader Corrine Blake said the statistics from the survey made her feel “disgusted and angry.”

“These are the experiences of young children and teenagers across the country, yet it feels personal because they reflect how I feel,” Blake said.

“At school, police don’t make me feel safe, Instead, they make me feel like I did something wrong. I feel scared that I could be hurt by the school police.”

She added students deserved support and resources, rather than an increased police presence. 

CPD and youth organizers are calling for the Biden administration, Congress, state and local officials to adopt the Youth Mandate for Education and Liberation.

The Youth Mandate demands officials fund education, not incarceration, restore and strengthen young people’s civil rights in education, uplift public education and end the private takeover of schools, CPD said, adding the mandate stems from years of local fights to dismantle the school-to-prison-and-deportation pipeline.

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