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Students Rally In D.C. Against More Police In Schools

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Members of the Youth Justice Coalition say armed police in schools don't make them safer.
Elliott Francis
Members of the Youth Justice Coalition say armed police in schools don't make them safer.

A coalition of students is demanding that Congress reject legislation that promotes the use of police or armed guards in public schools.

Following the tragic elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., some political leaders and lawmakers began to call for more armed police in public schools.

Whitney Kalethias, a Los Angeles high school student, says that is a bad idea.

"We know already in our communities that police don't make our schools any safer," Kalethias says.

Kalethias is a member of the Youth Justice Coalition, a group of young people, mostly of color, from across the country who have dedicated themselves to reducing gun violence in their public schools and their communities. Kalethias says police have been present in many urban schools for a long time and the results have been less than perfect.

"They don't create positive learning environments, and even more than that, they create a school to prison pipeline where young people, because they don't have enriching school classrooms, are often pushed out of school," Kalethias says. "As soon as they're pushed out of school, they're facing a lot of violence of the streets and even less opportunities for themselves, inching them closer to being behind bars instead of being behind desks."

This week the group is rallying in the District, meeting with members of the House and Senate and the Department of Education. The students suggest that while a strong police presence in some schools such as Sandy Hook Elementary is necessary, the same approach might be an overreach for some urban schools.

"We've been talking to legislators all day, trying to convince them to find other ways to do this," says D.C. resident Jonathan Stith, national coordinator for the coalition. "Turning schools into prisons doesn't make anyone safer, and suspending and kicking out students, particularly students of color, doesn't fulfill the promise of education

The group is promoting alternative solutions such as hiring additional counselors and community intervention professionals.

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