A police chief in Texas believes that police presence in schools can do more harm than good.
In an interview with TWC News, Chief Art Acevedo of Austin discussed the dropout rate as it pertains to policing in the city’s schools. Referencing recent years, he said, “There was a correlation between an increase and proliferation of police forces in these school districts and the dropout rate.” He also explained how teachers’ reliance on officers to discipline students exacerbated the school-to-prison pipeline, rather than mitigate misbehavior.
Although Acevedo’s comments stand out because they’re coming from a police chief, numerous studies connect the school-to-prison pipeline with poor academic performance and dropout patterns. When officers are utilized as the primary drivers of disciplinary action, students tend to be arrested for non-violent behaviors, such as talking back to teachers or swearing. Students who appear in court just one time on criminal charges are four times more likely to drop out of high school, and two times more likely to drop out after a first-time arrest.
An ACLU report from 2011 concluded that 178 school districts in Texas had their own police departments.
Additionally, those who are disciplined outside of school grounds often fall behind in their course work, and feel disinclined to continue their studies. In Texas, punishments often involve sending high school students to separate facilities, or Disciplinary Alternative Education Programs (DEAPS), for behavioral offenses. Texas Appleseed data from 2006 showed that students enrolled in DEAPs were five times more likely to drop out than their peers in regular schools. The ACLU also determined that Austin issued 2,364 tickets per year for “profanity, fighting, [and] disruption.”
Beyond the direct impact that policing has on students, high dropout rates have disastrous consequences for Texas’ economy. According to the ACLU, “students who drop out rather than graduate in 2012 will cost the state between $6 and 11 billion over their lifetimes.” As of 2011, the unemployment rate among the state’s high school dropouts was 46 percent.
Fortunately, the state of education in Austin seems to be improving. Nearly 85 percent of students graduated in 2013.