When a counselor, nurse, social worker or psychologist is part of a school community, the school sees improved attendance rates, academic achievement and graduation rates, while lowering rates of suspension, expulsion and other disciplinary incidents.

Unfortunately, rather than provide mental health resources that can increase positive outcomes for students, Arizona has the worst student-to-counselor ratio in the nation: 758-to-1. That’s triple the recommended number.

The suggested ratio? 250:1. The national student-to-counselor ratio is 444:1. Data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC) indicates that 1.7 million students in the United States are in schools with cops, but no counselors.

Arizona’s leaders often consider providing more funding for cops in schools. They do this even though there is no conclusive evidence to support the notion that police in schools make students safer. The reality is, having school-based police contributes to less inclusive school climates. Police officers in schools do what they are trained to do on the street – detain, handcuff and arrest. Criminalizing schoolchildren for common adolescent behavior funnels our children into the school-to-prison pipeline and has a disproportionate effect on students of color, disabled students, and LGBTQ students.

In Arizona, black students are more than two times as likely to be arrested as white students. Native American students are more than three times as likely to be arrested as white students. Students with disabilities are three times are likely to be arrested as students without disabilities. 

These disproportionalities should alarm us all. Our lawmakers should prioritize education funding for student support services over law enforcement. Ensuring that all schools have at least the recommended student-to-counselor ratio will keep students safer and more engaged. Demand to Learn has heard from many families whose children have been unduly disciplined for behaviors that should’ve been resolved in the principal’s office, not the police station. Our campaign wants to see an end to practices like school arrests and law enforcement referrals and encourage schools to implement restorative justice practices instead of engaging law enforcement.

Has your child had a negative experience with a school-based police officer? Contact us at demandtolearn@acluaz.org or file a complaint

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