The Potluck

Black students disproportionately referred to law enforcement, report says

By: - September 13, 2021 3:34 pm

Black students and students with disabilities in Minnesota are referred to law enforcement at rates nearly double the statewide average, according to an analysis by the Center for Public Integrity.

Nationwide, policing in schools disproportionately affects students of color and students with disabilities, CPI found. In Minnesota, 48 students out of every 10,000 were referred to law enforcement in the 2017-18 school year. For Black students, the rate was 124 per 10,000 students, and 110 per 10,000 for students with disabilities.

Law enforcement referrals include any time a school employee reports a student to a law enforcement agency or officer for an incident at school, on school transportation or at a school event.

They don’t always result in an arrest or charges, but students may receive citations or tickets that require a court appearance.

Minnesota’s overall law enforcement referral rate was the 17th-highest in the nation, according to the CPI analysis. Virginia had the highest rate, at 140 per 10,000 students, and Massachusetts had the lowest, 14 referrals per 1,000 students. 

Students of color are also disproportionately suspended from school in Minnesota. A Reformer analysis of federal data found that students are more likely to be suspended in Minnesota’s most racially segregated, majority-nonwhite schools.

For example, in middle and high schools where the student body is at least 90% students of color, more than 25% of Black male students are suspended, compared to about 12% at schools with up to 10% students of color.

The disparities in law enforcement referral rates and school discipline have sparked calls in recent years for school districts to remove police officers — sometimes called school resource officers, or SROs — from schools. The murder of George Floyd by a former Minneapolis police officer prompted many to cancel contracts with police departments, including Minneapolis Public Schools, St. Paul Public Schools and Hopkins Public Schools.

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Rilyn Eischens
Rilyn Eischens

Rilyn Eischens is a data reporter with the Reformer. Rilyn is a Minnesota native and has worked in newsrooms in the Twin Cities, Iowa, Texas and most recently Virginia, where she covered education for The Staunton News Leader. She's an alumna of the Dow Jones News Fund data journalism program and the Minnesota Daily. When Rilyn isn't in the newsroom, she likes to read, add to her plant collection and try new recipes.

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