As the Connecticut General Assembly heads into the 2022 legislative session, the Community First Coalition -- a group of youth and their allied adults -- is advocating for our state to invest in young people's wellbeing instead of policing. The #CareNotCops campaign seeks to replace police in schools (known as "school resource officers") with counselors that help youth to be safe, healthy, and thriving. On February 22, 2022, Claudine Fox, the ACLU of Connecticut's public policy and advocacy director, spoke at the Coalition's rally outside of the Capitol building in Hartford. Here are her remarks:
My name is Claudine Fox, and I am the public policy and advocacy director at the ACLU of Connecticut. Thank you to the Care Not Cops campaign for their relentless energy and organizing to address this critical issue – the impact of over-policing and how it shows up in several areas of youth life, including schools.
My work with the ACLU over the last several years has been geared towards eliminating the system of mass incarceration, and reducing the size, scope, and power of police in our society.
Over-policing of Black and brown bodies is violent and deadly, full stop.
I’m here to support, amplify, and validate the experience of our youth -- particularly Black and brown youth in Connecticut’s school systems. We as a society have a tendency to only believe the experiences of adults, as if time is the only validation for wisdom and expertise. We go on and on about how it’s our job to keep kids safe and yet do everything but listen to them when they are actually telling us they are unsafe. What’s worse, we gaslight them by forcing them to prove it to us, they do, and we still have the audacity to tell them they’re wrong. My team at the ACLU practices the value that “your experience is your expertise,” and that value absolutely extends to youth.
The youth are our future. They are brilliant, joyful, adaptable, hilarious, and innovative. They deserve to be heard and they deserve safe spaces to thrive.
Schools should be places where children are safe to learn, not places where they are at risk of being funneled into the school-to-prison pipeline. Research continues to show us the constant over representation of police and police-adjacent entities does nothing but increase the risk of kids being met with violence and harm.
Because of systemic racism, the students hurt worst and first by police surveillance in schools are Black and Latinx children. Because of interlocking systems of oppression, students with disabilities are also disproportionately hurt by police presence in schools.
They deserve better. Our youth, our babies, deserve to be meaningfully and intentionally centered in solutions and then invested in. And we as adults, especially adults in power, should be doing everything we can to make sure they have access to adequate mental health services, well-trained professionals that care about them and have the capacity to meet them where they’re at, and more than adequate school meals.
We as adults have the power to do that. This legislature has the power to do that. We should be investing in our kids, instead of the systems that harm and ultimately kill them. We here at the ACLU support the movement of the Care Not Cops Campaign and their legislative proposal.