LETTER — Support sought for school legislation

Published 6:00 am Friday, December 25, 2020

To the Editor:

Thank you for printing the article “New Virginia laws seek to close ‘school-to-prison pipeline,’” published Wednesday, Dec. 16. I am writing to ask folks to consider another piece of legislation also addressing policing in schools, Senate bill S.4360, the Counseling Not Criminalization In Schools Act.

Our public school students benefit when educational opportunities are not overshadowed by fear of being criminalized for behaviors that were once handled by principals and parents. School safety is a concern for all of us; however, more and more evidence shows that having police in schools for the purposes of managing discipline does not make children safer, but rather interrupts their learning and subjects them to physical restraint and interrogation according to the Justice Policy Institute.

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Many times, school resource officers/police are present but counselors or social workers who are trained to intervene using child and adolescent behavioral approaches are not. This federal bill proposes shifting resources away from policing our children and toward programs that address their social-emotional well-being and mental health needs. Please consider contacting your senator and asking them to vote “yes” to S.4360.

Lacey Bryant