LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) — A group of Fayette County public school students want police out of their schools.
They told ABC 36’s Christy Bollinger having officers in schools doesn’t reduce crime it just creates a culture of violence.
“Being a black girl in school is sometimes hard and I’m speaking for a lot of black girls right now,” says Lafayette Junior Micheline Karanga. “Black girls are often stereotyped as sassy, raucous or promiscuous. It is no wonder negative stereotypes associated with black girls help to perpetuate an increased number of police interactions and subsequent arrests, which ultimately leads to disproportionate involvement of black girls in the juvenile justice system.”
She says school resource officers don’t make her feel safe but instead cause fear.
“The presence of school officers really harms students, especially students of color and with disabilities,” says student organizer Micheline Karanga.
That’s why she and several other students are working with parents, educators and a national law project to reduce the number of officers in Fayette County schools.
The district has its own police force – five officers per high school and six covering 12 middle schools. And the 10-point safety plan approved last year would place another officer in every middle and elementary school.
According to the district’s 2020-2021 salary schedule, officers make 54-84k while teachers’ salaries range from 42-92k.
“So teachers are starting at a much lower salary and have to have way more years of experience and higher degrees to get to that higher salary that 92k gap,” says Katie Chamerblain with Grassroots Law Project, who work to transform policing and justice in the country.
They want that money used to address the root of crime.
“We want that funding to go to teachers, school psychologists, social workers and administrators who can really build that connection with high schoolers and build these community solutions that we want to see,” says Benjamin Shapere, a senior at Bryan Station High School.
The groups knows state law requires one officer in each school so that’s what they want, just one and only to respond to active shooter situations.
“As we’re in our communities re-imagining public safety we want to re-imagine what school safety is and how we can make that more inclusive,” says Chamberlain.
We asked the district and its police force how it feels about the project.
We haven’t received a response yet but we’ve talked to officers before who feel their role in schools is valuable and goes beyond offering protection.
They say a lot of what they do is about building relationships with students to ensure their success and teach them about police.