LDF  has worked for decades to advance educational equal educational opportunity for all students.  Central to that work has been addressing overly punitive discipline policies that disproportionately push students of color out of school, increasing their involvement with the juvenile justice system and fueling the School-to-Prison Pipeline.  The increased presence of police in schools has worsened discipline disparities for students of color, as school police are often used to handle routine discipline matters.  Reported incidents of excessive use of force by school police led LDF to join Texas Appleseed and other civil rights organizations in filing a complaint in Wake County, North Carolina, alleging disparate treatment of and excessive use of force by school police against students of color.  Reports of excessive use of force have arisen around the country.  Inserting military weaponry into these tense school climates, where students of color are already disproportionately subjected to excessive use of force by equipment such as tasers and pepper spray, can only worsen school climates.

The Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, administered by the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), provides military equipment, including weapons, to law enforcement, including law enforcement working as school police in K-12 schools.  Public schools are receiving equipment such as M-16s, AR-15s, grenade launchers, and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles through the 1033 Program.  Participating districts include school districts in California, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan, Nevada, and Utah.  LDF and Texas Appleseed spearheaded a letter in September, along with 22 other civil rights and education groups, requesting an end to the lending of military weapons to school police under the 1033 Program.  LDF has also met with Administration officials and submitted statements to the U.S. Senate and a letter to the U.S. House of Representatives urging an end to the lending of military weapons to police in K-12 schools. 

However, the practice still continues and students are subjected to school climates where weapons like grenade launchers and M-16s are present.  These weapons have no place in our public schools.

As federal facilitator for the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), LDF is joining in DSC’s request to the President and the Congress to end the lending of military weapons to K-12 public schools through the 1033 Program.  We urge you to join the petition.  Please find the petition language and link to sign onto the petition below:

Petition Language:

The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) is a national coalition of 92 organizations from 24 states dedicated to uplifting the human right of every child to a quality education and to be treated with dignity. DSC works to end push out of students from schools through overly punitive discipline practices.  We call on organizations and individuals throughout the country to join us in asking the President and Congress to act to end the 1033 Program’s lending of military weapons to law enforcement working in K-12 public schools.  

The Department of Defense’s 1033 Program, administered by the Defense Logistics Agency, lends surplus military equipment–including weapons–to local law enforcement agencies.  The 1033 Program also lends military equipment, such as grenade launchers, Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles, and high-powered rifles (M-16s and AR-15s) to law enforcement for use in K-12 public schools. 

A sampling of school districts participating in the 1033 program include: California (Baldwin Park; Oakland Unified; Los Angeles Unified; Stockton Unified; San Diego Unified); Florida (Washington; Bay; Palm Beach County); Georgia (Fulton County; Dooly County); Kansas (Auburn Washburn); Michigan (Detroit; Schoolcraft) Nevada (Washoe County); Texas (Ector County; Ennis; Spring Branch; Frenship; Aledo; Edinburg; San Antonio; Trinity; Beaumont); and Utah (Granite).

The justification of such weaponry for school safety only confuses school safety with school discipline, as police in schools are often used to handle minor discipline matters. We have already seen instances of excessive use of force by school police with gear like tasers and pepper spray, resulting in injuries to students, such as Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The introduction of military-grade weapons only worsens increasingly tense school climates without increasing school safety.

Arming school police with military-grade weapons and gear creates the potential to contribute to climates that students of color already disproportionately experience as hostile, normalizes the criminalization of youth, and worsens educational outcomes, without any public safety benefits.

We urge individuals and organizations from around the country to join this petition asking the President and Congress to act to end the 1033 Program’s lending of military weapons for use in K-12 schools.

Immediate action is needed to remove these weapons from our nation’s schools and to instead fund and implement proven solutions to improve school climates and safety.

** Sign the petition here **