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The ACLU wants more mental health professionals and fewer police in CPS schools

rows of empty school desks
Mche Lee
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The ACLU of Ohio says Cincinnati Public Schools "perpetuates harm and reinforces the school-to-prison pipeline," with racially disparate discipline.

Three groups are making bold claims based on data they received from public records requests filed with both the Cincinnati Police Department and Cincinnati Public Schools.

The ACLU of Ohio, Young Activists Coalition (YAC) and the ACLU Campaign for Smart Justice say the information shows school resource officers in the CPS district “administer racially disparate discipline perpetuating harm and reinforcing the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Findings for the 2021-2022 school year show CPS Black students are:

  • 21 times more likely to be put in an Alternative Placement Center
  • six times more likely to receive out-of-school suspension
  • eight times more likely to be expelled without instruction
  • five times more likely to face emergency removal

“The data confirms that Cincinnati Public Schools’ discipline scheme and policing program has horrific effects on the well-being of students,” says the ACLU. “Removing children from the learning environment is yet another way that Black, brown and disabled children are funneled into negative interactions with law enforcement at a young age.”

The ACLU of Ohio also released polling showing that most parents and recent graduates it surveyed (400 people) don’t support the contract between CPS and the Cincinnati Police Department and want reform. Parents were interviewed.

Forty-six percent of parents and 41% of recent graduates trust police in schools, but 52% of parents and 58% of recent grads were either neutral or distrustful of police in schools.

Fifty-three percent of parents and 65% of recent graduates do not support the current contract between CPS and CPD.

Forty-five percent of parents and 60% of recent graduates want to modify the contract to reform the use of force guidelines, training and accountability.

Changes the groups want

  • Renegotiation of the CPD-CPS contract
  • Less police involvement
  • Hiring of more counselors and mental health professionals

This is not a new problem, says the president of YAC, Bella Gordo. “For the past two years, YAC has continually made the district aware of the vastly racially disparate discipline within our schools through direct appeals, protests and many other methods.

“We will not rest until the district fully commits to anti-racism through the replacement of exclusionary discipline with restorative practices and the ending of the relationship between the Cincinnati Police Department and Cincinnati Public Schools," she says.

The ACLU says it is hopeful CPS will make changes, pointing to Superintendent Iranetta Wright’s background in restorative practices in Detroit.

Statement from Cincinnati Public Schools:

Cincinnati Public Schools (CPS) is aware of existing disparities, both nationally and locally, in the way students of color are disciplined. While our district has improved its Student Code of Conduct, implemented restorative justice programs and increased mental health support staff, we recognize more work needs to be done to further reduce these disparities in our schools. “Part of my first 100 Days as Superintendent is to evaluate our existing programs and supports. Student discipline has been one key area of focus,” said CPS Superintendent Iranetta Wright. “We need to place a stronger emphasis on implementing and monitoring our restorative justice program at every school, build more social emotional learning lessons into the curriculum, better leverage our mental health professionals and social workers at every school, and participate in joint training with SROs to ensure they better understand their roles in our schools. Through stronger effort in these areas, I believe we will reduce these disparities here at CPS.” In addition to school discipline, there are additional environmental aspects that impact a child’s life that can lead to devastating consequences; CPS believes labeling School Resource Officers (SROs) as the root cause of a "School-to-Prison" pipeline does not address the multiple needs and challenges that occur outside of school. It should also be noted, SROs (employed by the Cincinnati Police Department) are not responsible for school discipline, including emergency removals, suspensions and/or expulsions.
Cincinnati Public Schools

In addition to school discipline, there are additional environmental aspects that impact a child’s life that can lead to devastating consequences; CPS believes labeling School Resource Officers (SROs) as the root cause of a "School-to-Prison" pipeline does not address the multiple needs and challenges that occur outside of school. It should also be noted, SROs (employed by the Cincinnati Police Department) are not responsible for school discipline, including emergency removals, suspensions and/or expulsions.

With more than 30 years of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market, Ann Thompson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting. She has reported for WKRC, WCKY, WHIO-TV, Metro Networks and CBS/ABC Radio. Her work has been recognized by the Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2019 and 2011 A-P named her “Best Reporter” for large market radio in Ohio. She has won awards from the Association of Women in Communications and the Alliance for Women in Media. Ann reports regularly on science and technology in Focus on Technology.