ACLU: Counselors and Nurses, Not Cops, Are The Key to Better School Safety
In the wake of numerous shootings, schools across the United States have increased their security efforts — often by beefing up the presence of on-campus police. But a recent report from the American Civil Liberties Union says this is the wrong way to tackle safety issues in public schools and that a lack of mental health professionals ought to take priority.
The review, which was based on 2015-2016 data from the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, found nearly one-third of public school students (1.7 million) have campus police but lack a single nurse, psychologist, social worker or mental health counselor.
“These glaring deficits in mental health staff for students are inexcusable, especially in comparison to the number of reported law enforcement in schools,” the ACLU states.
Only Montana, Vermont, and New Hampshire public schools met the American School Counselor Association’s recommendation of one counselor for every 250 students. On average, schools have 444 students for every one counselor. Guidelines for social workers, psychologists, and nurses are being followed by less than 50%.
The ACLU report goes beyond concerns about a lack of mental health services, however, and also questions the impact of so many school guards and police. In addition to more federal funding for school counseling, nursing, and social worker services, the civil rights group calls for better training of security personnel to prevent the ‘criminalization’ of normal adolescent challenges and implicit racial bias.