This week’s episode addresses something that strikes at the heart of most parents of school-aged children, namely how to keep schools safe for our students. According to the ACLU of Southern California, “In the wake of the Columbine shooting, 9/11 and the 2008 recession, school districts in California (made choices) to cut mental health services in favor of more police.” Data shows, however, that this increase in school police has not created a greater security.
Without mental health resources at hand, teachers are compelled to request help from law enforcement, who themselves are put in this position without adequate mental health training. Police are trained to respond to conflict with detention and arrest. Reports show that 25% of school police have no prior experience with youth. They have limited training on emotional and social well-being or how to de-escalate a crisis. Schools with campus police report 3.5 times more arrests than schools without police, most often for low-level incidents that could have been handled differently if mental health supports had been available. Police are being asked to take on tasks outside of their skill set while our children are being criminalized.
Los Angeles Unified School District presents an interesting case study on this topic. Dr. Elianny Edwards et al from UCLA found that LAUSD increased campus police spending by 48% from 2010 to 2019, despite an 18% decrease in student enrollment. During that same time period, on-campus critical incidents – including suicidal threats – increased by an appalling 906%. The district is now taking steps to replace police funding with greater mental health supports.
Today Tricia speaks with Jackie Ochoa, AMFT, and Yessenia Arevalo, ASW, School Resources Clinicians from The Guidance Center who work in partnership with campus police for the Long Beach Unified School District to develop the School Crisis Response Clinician Program that provides therapeutic crisis intervention and assessment services, in lieu of an armed law enforcement response.
In My Backyard is brought to you by The Guidance Center, a children’s mental health agency in Long Beach, CA. In My Backyard is produced by Tricia Costales and Matthew Murray. Thank you to Jay Vincent B for original music. All other music licensed through SoundStripe. Thank you to our listeners and supporters.
Please visit tgclb.org or text HOPE to 562-262-5689 to make a one-time donation or join our Hope and Healing Club to become a monthly donor today. And subscribe to In My Backyard on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you listen to podcasts.