Sexualization Not Safety: Black Girls, Trans, and Gender Nonconforming Youth's Experiences of Police Presence in Schools: Report
By Interrupting Criminzation and In Our Names Network
Schools are an often-overlooked site of police sexual violence — even though, according to recently released data from the Advancement Project and Alliance for Educational Justice, from 2011 to 2023, the third most frequent type of assault of students by police stationed in and around schools was sexual assault — representing over 13% of documented cases of police violence against students.
The sobering truth is that police do not keep Black young women, girls, and trans and gender nonconforming youth safe from any type of violence, especially sexual violence. In fact, increased police presence in schools contributes to more violence of all kinds against students, teachers, and administrators, including sexual harassment, assault, and violence. The presence of law enforcement on and around school campuses is associated with increased profiling, police violence, and criminalization of students. This is particularly true for Black girls, who make up 16% of girls in schools, yet 37% of girls arrested in school and 43% of girls referred to law enforcement. Black girls as young as five or six have been arrested for “inappropriate behavior” in the classroom.
This report shares insights from a 3-year community story-telling project engaging Black girls, trans and gender nonconforming youth in Columbia, South Carolina, New York City, and the Bay Area around their experiences of police presence in schools, including sexual harassment, assault, and violence by police stationed in and around schools.
The experiences of the young people we spoke with in the course of our research were unfortunately consistent with statistics summarized above. Black girls and trans and gender nonconforming youth described feeling unsafe, surveilled, and sexualized in schools due to the presence of police, school resource officers (SROs), and other law enforcement agents.
Overall, our research found that:
Schools are sites of violence, sexualization, sexual harassment, and sexual assault by police and other authority figures.
Police don’t create safety for Black young women, girls, and trans and gender nonconforming youth in schools.
Survivors of police sexual violence need specific forms of support.
Based on these findings, we offer the following policy and process recommendations:
Support campaigns for #PoliceFreeSchools to increase safety for Black girls and trans and gender nonconforming students.
Ensure access to comprehensive sex education that normalizes conversations about consent and sexual violence, including sexual violence by law enforcement officers, to support prevention and create opportunities to make it easier for survivors to come forward and seek support.
Create multiple pathways for coming forward to report sexual violence by law enforcement officers to protect students from stigmatization and retaliation and to ensure their immediate safety without educational or social repercussions.
Engage youth in conversations and research on sexual violence by police stationed in and around schools, recognizing that it will require significant investments of time, resources, relationships, and healing justice support.
While the scale and scope of our research was severely limited by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, our hope is that the research process and tools we developed through this project will inspire and serve as a resource for others to engage in conversation and research with Black girls and trans and gender nonconforming youth on the prevalence and prevention of sexual violence by police stationed in and around schools.