SAINT LOUIS, MO – On June 26, 2020, the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and ten other organizations released an open letter calling on Saint Louis Public Schools (“SLPS”) to defund and eliminate police and security services in public schools, and invest in measures that actually keep students safe. Signers of the letter demand cutting all ties with the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, transformation of the Office of Safety and Security, and investment in supports that promote real student safety.
"The safety and security of our children in school is not a function of the presence of police or security officers in a school building,” said Joshua Saleem, AFSC’s Program Director in St. Louis. “Rather, it is largely a function of individual student well-being and the health of peer relationships and school culture."
St. Louis Public Schools (“SLPS”) spends $6.3 million on Security Services, but only half that ($3.1 million) on Social Work Services. Gateway High School has a population of approximately 1000 students but only one social worker. The National Association of Social Workers recommends a social worker to student ratio of 250:1.
“Investing in social workers, restorative justice practitioners, mental health professionals, and other measures would go a long way to providing real safety to students in SLPS,” said Saleem. A 2019 ACLU report revealed that “the presence of school-based mental health providers not only improved outcomes for students, but can also improve overall school safety. By contrast, there is no evidence that increased police presence in schools improves school's safety. Indeed, in many cases, it causes harm.”
AFSC’s St. Louis Peace Education Program works with young people most impacted by unjust systems and helps them see their own power to create institutional and systemic change. Since 2012, it has addressed the school-to-prison pipeline by helping youth engage in activism and advocacy, and learn to mediate conflicts among peers in order to prevent violence—and consequences like arrests and suspensions.
“As a Quaker organization with more than a century of experience working to end militarism and violence, we know that militarized and punitive approaches are dehumanizing and harmful, and do not move us toward a more peaceful world,” said Saleem. “Instead, we envision a future where resources are directed away from police and military, and towards the resources and institutions our communities need most.”
The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.