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Mai Lee: La Crosse schools should oust SROs

Mai Lee: La Crosse schools should oust SROs

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I’m hopeful the La Crosse board of education will consider reinvesting SRO funds toward other much-needed areas.

Law enforcement has historically targeted and harmed communities of color, specifically the Black community, which is still healing from years of trauma.

Youth of color are disproportionately impacted by law enforcement. According to the Carey Group 2014 study, youth of color in La Crosse County are nine times more likely than their white peers to be arrested; most of these arrests occurred during the school day.

By continuing the contract with the La Crosse Police Department, our school district chooses to perpetuate systemic racism and criminalize youth of color, their families and communities.

SROs are an illusion of safety and do more harm than justice. Punishment and criminalization fuel the school-to-prison pipeline, pushing youth of color, especially Black and Brown youth, out of schools and into the criminal justice system.

Because of the continuous harm and trauma caused by law enforcement, I demand the school board:

  • Terminate your contract with the La Crosse Police Department.
  • Invest in leadership, wellness, arts and growth opportunities for youth of color.
  • Invest in giving power back to youth of color, their families and communities.
  • Invest in counselors and restorative justice coordinators, trained in culturally responsive trauma-informed care.

The allocation of funds and resources reflect values. I hope you value the livelihood of our youth of color more than systemic racism. Schools are not prisons. SROs do not make schools safer.

Mai Lee, La Crosse

Mai Lee is social justice director, Cia Siab, Inc.

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