Today, the investigative journalism organization Center for Public Integrity released an investigative report analyzing U.S. Department of Education data that shows Virginia leads all states in referring students to law enforcement. At almost 16 referrals per 1,000 children, the rate is three times the national rate.
The Center for Public Integrity’s report highlights a harmful trend taking place in school districts across America—an over-reliance on law enforcement and harsh discipline policies that too often criminalize students for minor offenses. We are deeply troubled by the data showing Virginia refers students to police and courts at the highest rate of any state in the nation. Yet we know first-hand that current policies fall short of preventing arrests and criminal complaints in schools for behavior that should be handled with a trip to the principal’s office rather than the courthouse.
This report underscores the urgent need for a statewide memorandum of understanding that clearly spells out the roles of police and resource officers in schools. We also must ensure the adequate training of school resource officers to work collaboratively with educators to address student behavior. The report also highlights the need for better tracking and detailed data collection at the state level. Knowing the extent of school-based arrests and police involvement with students at school will help identify areas for improvement and need, and where other disciplinary interventions might help.
We know that Virginia is a state that cares deeply about providing all children with safe and supportive learning environments, and new policies already have begun shaping changes in how schools manage student discipline. We strongly urge state leaders to continue examining and implementing reforms that will keep children in school and on a track toward success.
Press Release (PDF)
Center for Public Integrity: Virginia tops nation in sending students to cops, courts
The Virginian Pilot: Study: Va tops U.S. in police handled student incidents
Business Insider: Study finds Virginia leads nation in referring students to police
Loudoun Times: Va. ranked top for school-based arrests
WVTF Public Radio: VA Tops U.S. in Referring Students to Law Enforcement
Richmond Times-Dispatch: Report: Va leads US in student law enforcement referrals