ACLU, groups take issue with decision to put officer at Kickemuit Middle School

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WARREN, R.I. (WPRI) — After the Bristol-Warren Regional School Committee voted to place a police officer at Kickemuit Middle School, advocacy groups slammed the decision Monday, saying more behavioral services were needed in the school, not “a law enforcement official trained in criminality and arrest.”

The ACLU of Rhode Island, the Rhode Island Disability Law Center, the Providence Student Union, Rhode Island Legal Services, and the Parent Support Network of Rhode Island all co-signed the open letter to the school district, drawing attention to how teachers told the school committee at last week’s hearing that students needed more mental health support and behavioral services, specifically for students with IEPs, or individualized education programs. 

“Many teachers also noted that the uptick in, and escalation of, misbehavior at the school has taken place at the same time that programs and resources designed to address students’ behavioral and emotional health problems have diminished,” the letter said in part.

At that committee hearing, Warren police officers said they’d been called to the middle school 18 times this academic year, including four times for fights and two times for someone in possession of a knife. The hearing had followed a mass of teachers absent on Friday, Feb. 1, which the teachers’ union said stemmed from concerns over the increase in unruly student behavior.

A subcommittee is set to report its findings on the issues on Feb. 25.

“As long as schools prioritize punishment over treatment and services, at-risk students will be pushed out of schools and onto the path of delinquency. This hurts us all,” the letter added.

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