For many, the horrific murder of George Floyd brought to light the issues of police brutality and systemic racism that this country continues to face. The problem is not new, but we find ourselves at a moment when millions of Americans are finally willing to address it. While some have taken to the streets to protest, others continue to fight for better policies around policing and racial justice. It is important that we lean into these conversations, even as we examine our educational system. We cannot forget that long-standing institutional barriers and lowered expectations plague our schools and have left far too many black and Hispanic students with limited options after high school. We cannot forget that many children, especially black boys, become targets of negative disciplinary policies and forced interactions with the criminal justice system at a young age. We cannot forget that undocumented students are put at a heightened risk when law enforcement gets involved in school disciplinary matters. Racism does indeed pervade every part of the system.
As the national discussion about the role of law enforcement in society continues, it is important for us to examine the policies and practices of policing in public schools. What are students experiencing in their interactions with both Houston ISD police and city/county officers? How are we balancing physical safety with socio-emotional safety? Does our budget reflect our values with regard to punitive versus restorative practices? These are the types of questions that administrators, elected officials, and community members need to be asking. At a moment when so many agree that the status quo is unacceptable, we cannot neglect the opportunity to develop a system that better serves our children.