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Recommendations for a Memorandum of Understanding Between Schools and Police

Police officer outside school

In schools across the state, students are treated like suspects in their own classrooms. Thousands of police walk the halls of our state’s schools and many operate with little or no accountability for their actions. Research has demonstrated, unequivocally, that when police are in schools, more children get arrested. We do not believe that police are a necessary part of a healthy and safe school environment, and there are many excellent schools and districts that prove this. Where school districts decide that police are needed in schools, it is absolutely incumbent upon educators to protect kids from unnecessary and harmful contact with the criminal legal system.

In 2019, New York State adopted a new requirement for school districts to reduce and regulate the role of police in our schools. New York Education Law § 2801-a(10) requires every school district with law enforcement, School Resource Officers (“SROs”), or security guards to adopt a written Memorandum of Understanding (“MOU”) that clearly defines the role of police, and keeps them out of disciplinary matters. The new law places responsibility for school discipline squarely with educators, not police, and requires districts to engage with the public about their school safety program.

While we are hopeful that this new requirement will start to decrease the number of kids exposed to the criminal legal system, it does not go far enough. So, the New York Civil Liberties Union has created a Model MOU that satisfies the law’s requirements while protecting and promoting student rights and contributing to a supportive school climate.

This MOU does not describe a perfect school. Rather, it is a set of policies intended to limit the ways that we know police in schools can harm kids and families. These policies are based on our experiences representing students in situations caused by over-interference of police in day-to-day school operations. They are grounded in real cases, not hypotheticals. We encourage school districts to use this model to create guidelines for unexpected situations, so educators are not called upon to make policy determinations on the spot.

Please email if you would like to discuss your District’s MOU with the NYCLU.

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