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Students are more likely to encounter law enforcement officers than counselors in nearly half of the largest public school districts in the nation, according to data obtained and analyzed by The 74.

The report from The 74, a nonprofit news outlet that covers education, found that New York City, Chicago, Miami-Dade County, and Houston schools—four of the 10 largest districts—have hired more security staff than counselors.

What’s more, all of the top 10 districts failed to achieve the one counselor to 250 student ratio recommended by the American School Counselor Association.

The organization notes that Black and Hispanic students comprise a majority in those districts—many of whom would benefit the most from counseling.

Dennis Parker, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s racial justice programs, spoke to The 74 about the study: “I’m not surprised, but it still concerns me really deeply. It reflects an approach to school discipline and school safety that is ultimately counterproductive.” 

Even law-and-order advocates are taking a close look at the report.

Mike Petrilli, of the conservative Fordham Institute, said this to The 74: “We’ve got to be really careful about drawing conclusions from these data. [But] I certainly think that these data raise an important question, that they demand further investigation.”

School districts nationwide averaged two counselors for 1,000 students in the 2013 to 2014 academic year, according to data reported by The 74. Six of the largest public school districts surpassed that average: New York City, Chicago, Clark County, Miami-Dade, Hillsborough County, and Hawaii.

These findings contribute to the national discussion about the so-called school-to-prison pipeline, in which students of color—particularly Black males—are disproportionately punished for minor infractions that often bring them into contact with the criminal justice system.

It also calls attention to criticism that school security officers largely lack training in handling school discipline problems—instead using a heavy hand to manage nonviolent offenses.



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