WENDELL — Shortly before Superintendent James Merrill held a meeting Thursday at East Wake High School to hear employee and parent concerns, a coalition of civil rights groups and concerned parents gathered outside to talk about a federal complaint that police officers who work at Wake County schools routinely violate the constitutional rights of minority students.
The complaint, filed Wednesday against Wake County Public Schools and nine area law enforcement agencies, claims the school systems disciplinary actions have overwhelmingly affected African-American students and students with disabilities. It says the school systems use of school resource officers isnt adequately regulated and officers are not properly trained or monitored.
The cops at our schools are not there to keep kids like us safe, said Cary High School senior Qasima Wideman. Though she did not cite any personal experiences, she reiterated the groups contention that available data shows African-American students are punished more often than their white peers.
The complaint says since school resource officers are not regulated or monitored, its difficult to tell how many African-American students are disciplined for minor offenses in school and end up in jail or in some sort of legal situation.
Students who should be sent to the guidance counselor to find out whats really wrong end up in jail, said Raleigh-Apex NAACP President Rev. Portia Rochelle. Too many students are pushed into a pathway to prison.
Speakers at the gathering cited incidents when school resource officers allegedly didnt read students their Miranda rights when necessary, illegally searched students bags, used pepper spray on students, and detained students without contacting their parents until some were already booked and in custody at a jail.
The complaint also cites several examples of school resource officers ignoring students individual education plans that are created to help students with disabilities function in a classroom environment. Rather than following IEP plans some of which advise instructors to simply talk with the student when there is a problem school resource officers often restrained those students, the complaint states.
Cops are not trained to deal with disabled students, Wideman said. They see students of color and disabled students as inherently criminal.