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Wisconsin Watch reports on the impact of policing in the state's public schools

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A report from Wisconsin Watch found that public schools in Wisconsin called the police on students at twice the national rate. Policing in schools disproportionally affects students with disabilities and students of color. Wisconsin was ranked the highest in referring Native students to law enforcement as well.

Wisconsin schools called police on students at twice the national rate — for Native students, it was the highest

Clare Amari is a reporting fellow at Wisconsin Watch, who helped with the final report.

"Nationally about 4.5 students are referred to law enforcement for every 1,000 students enrolled. What we found was that in Wisconsin, that number is actually double and unfortunately when you get to minority groups those rates go up even more," Amari says.

Amari says there are several factors that could lead to this trend but points out uneven ratios between staff and students that ultimately comes down to funding.

"So in other words, staff that could intervene and maybe de-escalate these disciplinary problems, or even prevent them from happening in the first place, the staff just isn't there," Amari says. "And the advocates I talked to were really adamant that what that comes down to is funding...that Wisconsin and other states spend more money on student resource officers."

Leaders Igniting Transformation, or LIT, has advocated for police to be removed from schools. This past year, their action led to the Milwaukee Public School Board ending their contracts with the Milwaukee Police Department.

Michelle Drane is a high school fellow with LIT. She says ending the contract between the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee Public Schools was a step in the right direction to remedy this trend.

>> MPS Board Votes To End Contracts With Milwaukee Police

Drane says, "As being a Black woman in [a] public school, I am constantly put aside, especially when it comes to learning — and I'm just criminalized. I'm always profiled and discriminated against in schools — that shouldn't have happened. I should be there for my education."

Amari hopes the Wisconsin Watch findings will lead to more change in Wisconsin schools.

"Our hope is that the data is going to provide a window into schools, disciplinary practices, and a basis for parents and educators to ask questions," Amari says.

Mallory Cheng was a Lake Effect producer from 2021 to 2023.
Kobe Brown was WUWM's fifth Eric Von fellow.
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