Last week, Baltimore City Public Schools released the results of a survey of students’ feelings about school police. The survey, conducted by Youth As Resources and Baltimore Algebra Project (an OSI grantee), found that 84% of students feel that school police are respectful to students; 80% of students feel that school police are approachable; and 81% of students feel that school police do not make them feel like criminals. More than 5,000 students in grades 5 through 12 at schools with permanently assigned school police participated in the survey.
In addition, more than 70% of students agreed that school police contribute positively to school climate and make them feel safe, but only 45% said “My school police have an understanding of my life in and outside of school” and 36% said “I have some form of a relationship with my school police.”
In the summer edition of OSI’s Audacious Thinking newsletter, School Police Chief Akil Hamm attributes improving relationships between students and officers to restorative practices, which he first embraced after he received training more than five years ago. In his first year as chief, he mandated that all 100-plus members of the force undergo the training.
“As long as you buy into it, it will make a difference,” he says. “To be honest, I’ve gotten no push back from the troops. A lot of people outside of the system say ‘You need to arrest students, you need to suspend them — kids have to be safe!’ The truth is, by actually dealing with underlying conflicts, we are making schools safer.”