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29 June 2020

Racism report raises concerns over police presence in schools

New research suggests that ethnic minority students are being unfairly treated.

By Samir Jeraj

Police presence in schools can be “intimidating and threatening” to black and other ethnic minority students, according to a report published by Manchester University and the Runnymede Trust.

The study focused on race and racism in education in Greater Manchester. Incidents recounted by teachers included students being stopped and searched in schools without good reason, damaging any trust between them and the police.

Several teachers interviewed for the report said that police presence undermined their efforts to create a safe learning environment for children. One teacher said it was “criminalising kids” while another said “it suggests the worst in the students”.

Police are often embedded in schools in areas of “high-deprivation” as part of efforts to counter youth violence, and in particular, knife crime. Critics of this approach say it stigmatises schools in poor areas and is part of a pattern of over-policing poor and black or ethnic minority communities. 

“Despite the political impetus to place more police in schools, as this report shows, teachers have legitimate and urgent concerns that should be heeded,” the report said. “While a police presence in schools can be detrimental to all students, evidence suggests that the negative effects will be felt most harshly by BME and working-class students – both of which groups are already over-policed.”

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While most of those interviewed felt there could be a pastoral, community relations role, for the police in schools, the report found no clear evidence that this was the case at present. Instead, the authors argued, trained youth workers, counsellors and more teachers would have a better impact on students and their lives.

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The report also highlighted that supposedly neutral school policies, such as school uniforms and hair, need review from an anti-racist perspective. The authors said that a continued lack of teachers from ethnic minority backgrounds, a lack of a diverse curriculum, and a poor knowledge and literacy on the issues of race across the teaching profession, are issues that need addressing.