Counselors Not Cops: Tell the Miami School Board to Increase Support for Mental Health and Counseling

July 17, 2019

Illustration of a student in front of two doors, one labelled "Incarceration" and one labelled "Counseling"

All over the country, students are experiencing increasing levels of stress and depression, anxiety and fear. Students know it’s a problem—seven in ten see anxiety and depression as major problems among their friends. But even though one in five kids in the US have mental illness, 80% of children who need help won’t get it. Why? Because all over the country, school district after school district is responding to this mental-health crisis by… hiring more police and security officers.

Yes, you read that right. And no, it doesn’t make any sense. So let’s change the system. We’re starting in Miami, where we’re working with our partners, Advancement Project National Office and Power U, to convince the Miami-Dade school board to invest in counselors, not cops.


Support Our Students

Unfortunately for its students, Florida’s huge Miami-Dade school district, the third-largest in the country, is a perfect reflection of the destructive national trend toward overpolicing our schools.

This also makes it the perfect place to create change. Committed activists, students, parents, and mental-health advocates have been working for a long time to convince the school board to increase funding for mental-health counselors in Miami schools. If we’re successful here, the victory will be felt all over the US.

A few key stats highlight the challenges students and their parents face in Miami when trying to get the help they need. Does look like a system that truly supports its students?

  • Students per psychologist: 1,988
  • Students per social worker: 15,524


Racial Disparities in the System

After the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018, Florida made it legal to arm teachers. Florida also passed a law requiring all schools to have police or armed guards. What Florida did not do is provide more funding for the hiring of mental health counselors.

Our students do not need more police. In fact, putting more police in schools actually makes students of color, in particular, less safe. We know that systemic racism is built right into our education system, affecting kids as young as five. We know that black students are punished more harshly than white students for the same offenses. That black students are arrested at school at disproportionately high rates, and are more likely than white students to go to schools that have police patrolling the hallways.

That’s true nationally. And it’s true in Miami too. A couple of examples:

  • Only 20% of Miami-Dade students are Black, but Black students make up 52% of arrests
  • 7% of Miami-Dade students are white, but they make up only 3% of arrests

Our kids don’t need arrest records, they need caring, trained staff available and ready to listen. Police and security officers do not have the necessary training to help kids in crisis. It’s time for Miami-Dade to invest in counselors who are there to help our students, not handcuff them.


Pack the School Board Meeting!

You know where we stand. You know what students need. Now we all have to come out to the Miami-Dade school board meeting at 6 pm on July 24 and tell the school board members that enough is enough. Our students are struggling. They need help. They need mental health professionals and counselors.

Students deserve to feel safe and supported in their schools. Are you ready to ensure that kids in Miami and all over the country get the help and support they need? Then let’s make change happen here on July 24! Just say no to overpolicing, and yes to schools that will help kids learn, grow, and heal.