Richmond Times-Dispatch: Williams: Police Should Protect and Serve Students, Not Discipline Them

Watching a Richland County, S.C., deputy flip over a desk, dump a student on the floor and toss her across a classroom, Richmond Police Chief Alfred Durham realized his department is not immune to such a spectacle.

“I would be a fool to sit down and tell you that would never happen here,” he said. “I wouldn’t bet my career on that. Because we’re all human beings.”

Durham might have noted that the odds are not in Virginia’s favor to avoid such a debacle. The commonwealth leads the nation in students referred to police and the courts — a phenomenon known as the school-to-prison pipeline — according to an analysis by the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity.

According to the study, nearly 16 out of every 1,000 students in Virginia wound up in that criminal justice pipeline, far above the national rate of 6 per 1,000. Of the students referred to police and courts in Virginia, 30 percent had special needs and 38 percent were black.

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