MILWAUKEE - The ACLU of Wisconsin today sent a letter to the Milwaukee Public School Board supporting the termination of a contract between the Milwaukee Public School and the Milwaukee Police Department, which will be voted on by the school board  later this week. 

In addition to calling for the $478,000 contract between MPS and MPD to be terminated, the resolution by the school board requires the development of a plan with organizations from affected communities to reallocate those funds to better serve student needs. 

“As we work toward transforming the role of policing in society writ large, ending the dependence on law enforcement in our schools is a good place to start. MPS currently spends hundreds of thousands of dollars bringing the police into our schools, which has proven to be largely counterproductive and discriminatory towards people of color,” said Molly Collins, Advocacy Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Instead of continuing to spend more and more money on policing, MPS should reinvest those resources into ways that many high school students are calling for - improving mental health services by hiring more counselors, nurses and psychologists, and work toward building non-punitive, restorative approaches to problem-solving that are free of racial bias.” 

Groups like Leaders Igniting Transformation (LIT) are leading this work, and their May 2020 “Youth Mandate for Milwaukee Public Schools” A Vision for Thriving Black and Brown Students” is helpful reading for policymakers. 

According to the ACLU’s 2019 report, “Cops and No Counselors,” Black students in Wisconsin are much more likely than white students to be arrested in schools. More than 90% of Wisconsin schools do not meet recommended student to counselor ratios. 

“The ACLU has long advocated and litigated against the ‘School to Prison Pipeline’ – a discriminatory, destructive system exacerbated by putting police into schools,” the letter stated. “We strongly urge the board to support the resolution and continue and expand its work to ensure that Black and Brown students in our city can thrive,

Schools with robust mental health services see improved attendance rates, better academic achievement, and higher graduation rates as well as lower rates of suspension, expulsion, and other disciplinary incidents. Data shows that the presence of school-based mental health providers not only improves outcomes for students, but can also improve overall school safety.