Wyden, Colleagues Reintroduce Legislation to End Criminalization of Students and Create Safer Environment for Kids

November 03, 2023

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said today that he and Senate colleagues have reintroduced legislation that would invest in safe and nurturing school environments that support all students and address over-policing in K-12 schools.

“The school to prison pipeline is a problem which disproportionately hurts students of color and creates an environment of learning in fear of being arrested,” Wyden said. “Closing the school to prison pipeline means investing in and improving student well-being. That’s why I’m proud to cosponsor legislation that would help create safer school environments by redirecting federal funding to support additional behavioral health and counseling staff in schools.”

Research shows the presence of police in schools leads to an increase in arrests of students — particularly students of color and students with disabilities — often for common misbehavior that a school could address without law enforcement. Meanwhile the presence of mental and behavioral health personnel in schools, like counselors, social workers and psychologists improves educational outcomes for kids — specifically by improving attendance and graduation rates while lowering the rates of suspension, expulsion and other disciplinary incidents.

The Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act would prohibit the use of federal funds to maintain police presence in schools and instead provide $5 billion in new grant funding to help schools hire more counselors, social workers, and other mental and behavioral health personnel —  as well as implement services in schools that create positive and safe climates for all students.

Specifically, the legislation would:

  • Prohibit the use of federal funds for maintaining police in schools.
    • Instead, federal funds would be diverted toward other uses related to school safety within applicable grant programs.
  • Invest billions to help schools hire counselors, social workers, and other trauma-informed support personnel necessary to create safe, supportive learning environments for all students.
    • The grant funding would also help schools implement programs to improve school climate, such as school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports, and invest in trauma-informed services and professional development.
  • Provide incentives to states and school districts to end the criminalization of young people — particularly Black, Native American and Latino students, immigrant students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and other historically marginalized students.

The legislation was led by U.S. Senator Chris Murphy D-Conn. Alongside Wyden, the bill was cosponsored by U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Cory Booker, D-N.J., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.  

This legislation is supported by Activists With A Purpose Plus, Advancement Project, Advocating 4 Kids Inc, Alliance Against Seclusion and Restraint, Alliance for Quality Education, Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, American Association of University Women, American Civil Liberties Union, American Humanist Association, AMORC, ARISE, Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, Black Organizing Project, Black Swan Academy, Blue Future and many other organizations.

A one-page summary of the legislation is here.

The text of the bill is here.

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