Police Officers in Unit Four Schools

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On April 18 2006, in response to what
school officials called an increase in the severity
of physical confrontations between students,
the Champaign City Council passed a
resolution to approve an intergovernmental
agreement with Unit 4 School District that
would put police officers in Unit 4 schools.
The total operating cost for the city, over
a three-year period, to employ five officers
to serve as “law enforcement officers, law
related counselors, and law related educational
instructors” is over one million dollars.
This cost is to be paid by the City of
Champaign and $643,586 dollars to be
paid by Unit 4 schools. Meanwhile, there
are students in Unit 4 schools who cannot
take home textbooks to do their homework,
because schools claim they cannot
afford to buy extra books.
This ‘intergovernmental resolution,’ was
called into question by a number of people
who were concerned that questionable
practices of racial profiling by Champaign
police (especially in the North End) would
replicate themselves within Unit 4 schools.
For those of us who have regular conversations
with youth inside Unit 4
schools, it is no secret that the police officers
in the schools target black students for
punishment. Since the Security Resource
Officer (SRO) program was instituted,
there has been very little public response
from the Champaign City Council, Unit 4
schools, and the Champaign Police Department,
in addressing the concerns raised at
the April 18, 2006 Champaign City Council
meeting on racial profiling.
I was recently returned my Freedom of
Information Act (FOIA) request about the
School Resource Officer Program and the
numbers provided by the Champaign Police
Department only reaffirm the stories that we
are hearing about how the classroom has
become a carceral space for Black students.
In the 2006–2007 school year, police officers
documented 683 incidents of contact
with students. Of these 683 cases, 559 of
them, or 87.6% percent, were
involving black students and
249 of those cases, or 39% of
those cases involved black
female students.
Young Black women are
disproportionately having
contact with school police
officers for vague disciplinary
infractions such as
‘Defiance and Disorderly
Conduct,’ and ‘Bullying,’
that seem deeply rooted in
stereotypes of Black women.
Hence, young Black women are
described in terms (loud, sassy, etc…) that
make them violators of ‘proper gender
behavior’ and, thus, in need of management
and/or policing. I bring up black female students,
because black females have sort of
become secondary to discussions about the
prison industrial complex and the classroom
to prison pipeline. To quote Andrea Smith,
“There’s a tendency in our decolonization
movements, our racial justice struggles to
see gendered justice as kind of an add on.
Like, once we get liberated we’ll deal with
this issue. And we fail to see that it is precisely
through a logic of sexual violence that
colonialism and white supremacy work.”
If anyone is interested in talking more
about this issue, or has personal experiences
that you would like to share, contact

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