Commentary

How taxing mines could help fight systemic racism in schools

May 17, 2021 5:00 am

A contributing factor to the school-to-prison pipeline is spending money on school police instead of counselors and school nurses.(Clark County School District Police Department Facebook feature photo)

I’ve spent my last few years of high school advocating to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline, remove police presence in our schools, and provide a better support system in schools for all of my classmates. But our calls for more counselors and less police have been met with questions of budgets, Assembly Joint Resolution 1(AJR1**) is an opportunity for legislators to support generations of students to come and gives school districts funding for tools to end systemic racism in schools. 

I am a senior at Las Vegas Academy (LVA) and we have police in my school. My first encounter with school police was when they would filter students into the school to be chosen for a metal detector test and a bag search. We were afraid because those police were carrying weapons of excessive force—not just pepper spray or tasers but loaded guns. It makes you tense and a lot of my peers were afraid of the possibility that the police would target us because we weren’t white, especially my Black and Brown friends. After hearing about different schools in the area being known for their heavy police presence and weaponry, why wouldn’t we be afraid? They are supposed to be there to protect us from intruders, but then why are school police officers so heavily armed, patrolling our campuses and criminalizing students? It deeply affects our education. 

Most of the kids that are harmed when involved with the school police are Black and Brown students. They are disproportionately put into a system that punishes them more harshly than their white peers. A white and Black student could be sent to the dean’s office for the same offense and the Black student would get a harsher punishment. The offense and punishment not only shows up on their file but also takes them away from the classroom where they miss class instruction. This is the school-to-prison-pipeline, where “children are funneled out of public schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems” according to the ACLU.

Education in Nevada is criminally underfunded, and with the Clark County School District being the 5th largest in the nation, it’s clear that students in the district aren’t being supported as much as we should be. One contributing factor to the school-to-prison pipeline is the insistence of using school police to solve a lot of the conflicts and crises that students face, as opposed to better funding counselors and school nurses. In CCSD, there is approximately one social worker per 1,600 students, this represents four times the recommended ratio. As for school counselors, the recommended ratio for high need schools, a lot of the same schools where over policing is an issue, is 1 to 100. The actual ratio of counselors to students is four times that for high schools in CCSD.  With funding as the major barrier for support systems in schools, AJR1** offers the tools for the solution our counties and state need by proposing an increase in revenue from a mining tax that also includes a set amount that will go towards schools and healthcare. AJR1** can provide much needed funds that school districts could use to better support students and these long neglected systems that have required corporate charity to fill the gaps. 

As a member leader with the Youth Power Project, one of our main goals is the dismantling of the school-to-prison pipeline in Nevada.  Through protests, meetings, and public roundtables we’ve been able to spread the message but haven’t been able to remove police from schools.  In addition, we advocate for schools to enforce anti-racism. It is of utmost importance that the students take action into their own hands. This  could mean creating their own DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) council with students of different backgrounds. This looks like a council with students that are Black and Brown, AAPI (asian-american/pacific islander), LGBTQIA+, etc. Schools need to include the students that are directly affected by racist remarks and actions because having white students and adults talk for us means our stories and experiences aren’t going to be seen. The minority makes up the majority of the population in the schools yet we are the most underrepresented in the county.

For solutions like this, we can’t keep cutting education to balance the state’s budget. AJR1** would amend the Nevada Constitution to remove the loopholes that allow these huge corporations to sidestep paying their fair share of taxes. By passing AJR1**, our state can continue the process to secure a stream of revenue that is directly funneled into education. We need our elected officials to take a stand against these corporations, support students, and stop perpetuating systemic racism in schools. 

Aimee is Asian-American youth-leader and a current senior at the Las Vegas Academy of the Performing Arts (LVA) with a major in music. As a youth Councilmember of Camp Anytown Las Vegas and a member leader of  the Youth Power Project at Make the Road Nevada, Aimee has been an advocate in the community and in schools.

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