Reading, Writing and Handcuffs
Illustrations By:Jessica Coppet
Warning: The following content includes descriptions of physical aggression.
This is the story of a six year old girl who has sleep apnea. Like so many girls her age, she’s energetic and loves the color pink.
One day at school, the girl begins acting out in her first grade class. Her teacher sends her to the office where a school employee—not a trained counselor––grabs her to calm her down. She lashes out, throws a tantrum and kicks the employee in response.
Remember she's only six.
After a few minutes she calms down—because tantrums don’t last forever. The girl goes back to class. Until…
...the police arrive.
The median salary of two police officers who were hired to handle the deluge of daily calls––some calls actually needing police intervention but many, many more calls that do not. Source
Help me! Help me please!
The police approach the girl. Confused and terrified, she shouts, “no, no, don’t put handcuffs on!”
The officer handcuffs her anyway.
“Help me, help me, please!” She’s crying, looking for someone, anyone to help.
The school staff watches silently. The officer coolly remarks to the staff that she had broken the record and was now the youngest person he had arrested.
For the officer, this girl is a prize.
“I don’t want to go in a police car,” she wails.
“You have to,” the officer says.
“Please, give me a second chance,” she begs, dragging her heels.
The officer puts the girl in the back seat of a police car and drives her to a juvenile detention center.
At the center, the police fingerprint her and take her mugshot—as she stands on a step stool.
She’s too small to reach the camera.
While the officers in this story were never charged or disciplined, the average amount 2 problem officers cost a city police agency a year. This average amount only accounts for the payouts to plaintiffs in citizen lawsuits and does not include additional costs like litigation expenses, insurance fees, overtime to cover suspended officer duties, and other costs incurred by the jurisdiction.
The national average is roughly $35,000 a year per "bad apple." Source
Now, she melts down every time she sees a police officer on the school campus. Her grandmother enrolls her in a private school, where there are no officers present.
She could've not suffered such trauma if we invested differently.
A plan to reallocate.
These are nonviolent alternatives to policing that could have been used in this scenario. All of these alternatives together are still less than the cost of this single story’s police intervention.
School Safe Spaces$97.5K
Cost of 10 safe spaces
When students are experiencing stress, it inhibits their ability to learn Source. Safe spaces are places where children can go when they are emotionally upset. In this space, they can identify what caused them to become upset and decide how to manage their feelings Source. Safe spaces can range from quiet nooks in a classroom to fully equipped sensory rooms capable of handling a spectrum of special needs children. These fully equipped rooms cost $10,000 each Source.
Cost of 3 counselors
When a school has a counselor, students will often show a higher attendance level and display fewer behavioral problems. In turn, students with this access are also more likely to go to college. As students struggle with stresses inside and outside of the classroom, a trained ear benefits not only those in most need, but the school as whole. Source
Cost for 250 certifications
By equipping teachers and staff with the training to safely prevent a crisis and de-escalate a situation, school employees are empowered to feel comfortable and knowledgeable about how to help. With flexible online curricula and resources, these courses are more available than ever—with the cost per course as low as $130 Source. For example, a representative from each of the 250 public schools in Tampa (the 8th largest school district in the country) could gain certification at $32,500. Source
Imagine what could have been
How can you rewrite this story?
Spread the Word
Share Defund to Refund with your community, and continue the conversation.
Support the cause
Donate to Dignity in School: an organization challenging the systemic problems of pushout in our nation’s schools and working to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.
Advocate for defunding police to refund your community. Visit our toolkit for resources to show your support and further the conversation.Learn More