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Learn about policing in Durham Public Schools and join our #LiberateToEducate movement by sharing these infographics.
Frequently Asked Questions
What do you want Durham Public Schools to do?
We want Durham Public Schools (DPS) to end the school-to-prison pipeline by removing police, ending exclusionary discipline, liberating the school environment, implementing culturally relevant curriculum, and establishing mental health spaces and safe spaces for LGBTQIA+ youth at every school.
DPS must remove school resource officers (SROs) from its campuses and end the school policing contract with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office. The same police officers harassing, beating, and even killing people of color in our communities are targeting and criminalizing Black and Latinx students in DPS schools. Although research confirms Black students do not misbehave at higher rates than their white peers, Black students represented only 44% of DPS student enrollment in 2018-19 but represented 86% of school-related complaints to the youth justice system.
The over-policed school atmosphere can initiate, rather than alleviate, misbehavior by increasing anxiety, alienating students, creating a sense of mistrust between peers and forming adversarial relationships with school officials. The increased presence of school security, including SROs, has been associated with increases in suspension and expulsion for Black students and greater discipline disparities between Black and white students. In DPS, Black students were 7.4 times more likely than white students to receive a short-term suspension during the 2017-18 school year. Although Black students comprised only 44% of enrollment that year, they represented over 76% of short-term suspensions. This is why we call for an end to exclusionary discipline and the implementation of authentic, school-wide restorative justice programs.
We want a liberated school environment where students from marginalized communities have the freedom to determine their educational experience while feeling safe, loved, and supported.
What does liberate the school environment mean?
We believe DPS must liberate the classroom by: (1) Increasing student self-determination in course selection and scheduling; (2) expanding access to higher-level courses; and (3) ending the segregating and alienating practice of academic tracking.
More student choice benefits students and their overall learning environment. Research demonstrates that allowing greater choice in course selection engages students’ autonomy, competence and relatedness — all three of which enhance their intrinsic motivation and create healthier school environments. Students exhibited a statistically significant higher level of intrinsic motivation when given a personal choice over course selection, regardless of whether it was an elective or required course.
Moreover, when students perceive that their school is making an effort to include them in decision-making, they perform better academically and are more likely to graduate. Thus, the extent to which a school and/or school district allows students to exercise self-determination over their coursework impacts both their academic and post-school outcomes. These studies and the experiences of students of color throughout DPS demonstrate that the district must increase students’ ability to dictate their own educational experience in order to eliminate this facet of the school-to-prison pipeline.
Sign the Petition
The Youth Justice Project needs your help to address the problems in Durham Public Schools (DPS) and end the school-to-prison pipeline. We are a youth-led group of DPS students of color who believe in a world where no child is criminalized, and all Black, Latinx and LGBTQIA+ youth, as well as students with disabilities, have the education and support necessary to thrive in their full dignity.
As DPS students, we witness school resource officers (SROs) funneling students through the school-to-prison pipeline regularly. “One minute the SROs are interrupting a gym class and playing dodgeball with white students then the next minute, they’ll stop a student of color in the hall for wearing a hoodie.” Some of us also experience discrimination in academic tracking, which systemically places students of color in less challenging classes. “I am a victim of tracking specifically. I was told I could never be put into an honors class because of my test scores in elementary school, the age when my brain is still developing.”
By putting our demands into action we can make our school environment a better, healthier, safer, and more liberating place to learn. You can help us liberate DPS by signing our petition and telling school board members they must #LiberateToEducate.