CAIR-NJ Welcomes Advocacy Groups’ Petition Against Increase of Police Presence in Schools
(SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ, 6/29/2022) – The New Jersey chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-NJ) today welcomed a petition to the New Jersey Board of Education by civil rights organizations opposing an increase in police presence in schools following the Uvalde school shooting in Texas that left 19 children and two adults dead.
The New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, the ACLU of New Jersey and the NAACP of New Jersey, among other advocacy groups, signed a petition pushing back against Governor Phil Murphy’s decision to increase police presence in schools.
In their petition, groups called for evidence-based approaches to school safety that involve non-punitive, relationship-centered practices that avoid and address harm, respond to violations of legal and human rights, and collaboratively solve problems.
Among their demands are the hiring of trained staff such as school psychologists, counselors, and social workers, implementing restorative justice techniques that would allow for open dialogue between students and foster community-building exercises, and introducing social emotional learning, which could reduce exclusionary discipline by decreasing student behavioral issues and conduct problems.
In a statement, CAIR-NJ Executive Director Selaedin Maksut said:
“We are deeply saddened at the senseless and tragic school shooting in Uvalde and the overall rise in school shootings, but we are also troubled by the increase of law enforcement presence in schools.
“Investing more in police presence at schools is not only futile, but also harmful, particularly to immigrant communities and Black and brown students. It risks an increase in school-based arrests for minor offenses and can push non-compliant students out of school and into prison. More importantly, it also takes away from funding from needed services, like mental health counseling and assistance to students.
“Instead of allocating more funding to law enforcement and security officers, we would like to see those funds put toward hiring mental health professionals, counselors, and social workers who can address students’ needs, foster a culture of safety in schools, and take on a proactive rather than reactive approach to student misconduct.
“We must work toward eliminating police-in-school programs, and only use police officers in school settings to address violent incidents and external threats. Their use should not be without heavy restrictions on their duties in schools, entirely avoiding internal disciplinary matters.
“We also welcome initiatives like A660, which would establish mental health assistance programs that can help identify and address students’ mental health struggles and the impact on their academic performance.”
SEE: CAIR Task Force on Anti-Black Racism: Ending Racist Police Violence in America
New Jersey has the highest disparity in the nation in the incarceration rates of Black and white youth, with nearly 18 Black youth incarcerated for every one white youth, even though Black and white youth commit most offenses at similar rates, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Sentencing Project. In 2015-16, the ACLU found that, nationwide, Black students were three times more likely to be arrested in school compared to white students.
CAIR’s mission is to protect civil rights, enhance understanding of Islam, promote justice, and empower American Muslims.