Judiciary and Public Safety Committee Hearing on:
B24-0254, the School Police Incident Oversight and Accountability Amendment Act of 2021; B24-0306, the Youth Rights Amendment Act of 2021; and B24-0356, the Strengthening Oversight and Accountability of Police Amendment Act of 2021
Democrats for Education Reform DC
Good morning Councilmember Allen and members of the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. My name is Nikki D’Angelo and I am a Ward 5 resident, DCPS parent, former DC charter school teacher, and former DCPS central office employee. I am testifying on behalf of Democrats for Education Reform DC (DFER DC) and I am pleased to offer testimony in support of B24-0254, the School Police Incident Oversight and Accountability Amendment Act of 2021 and, B24-0306, the Youth Rights Amendment Act of 2021.
As a former teacher and social worker in DC for almost 10 years, I handled countless incidents and altercations between students – and not once did I believe that any of those situations would have been better handled by a police officer. During this time, I heard many disturbing stories of how my students experience the police in the District. The trusted adults in schools are often teachers and social workers, not police. We must keep every student safe in school buildings with high-quality, uninterrupted learning so they can thrive in life, school, and career. The DC Council must continue to identify evidenced-based solutions to reduce the number of students that are placed in foster care, arrested, committed, detained, and incarcerated; enhance trauma-informed and unconscious bias teaching and training; and provide greater wrap-around supports to students and their families. All of these solutions must include feedback from our school communities.
B24-0254, the School Police Incident Oversight and Accountability Amendment Act of 2021
I can’t fathom living in a city where students of color make up 100% of school-based arrests, especially knowing many of those students have disabilities. In terms of this bill, I fully support improving transparency and accountability for both schools and the Metropolitan Police Department regarding school-based disciplinary actions involving law enforcement. The public needs to see these sobering statistics so we can make school-level discipline fair and rare. I recommend expanding the language to include special education transportation so we know what is happening on our buses as well.
B24-0306, the Youth Rights Amendment Act of 2021
Considering my years of experience aforementioned, I am in full support of this bill. I would not expect a child to give consent to a police officer and then be assigned responsibilities and punishments that far exceed their developmental level. As adults, it is our responsibility to ensure we don’t assign children responsibilities that could have a negative impact on them for the rest of their lives – this has to include interrogating children and implementing searches.
Considering this data and the context it creates, my question for the Council is how are we incentivizing the DC government and all local education agencies to better educate and support our students with special needs, because those are the students that are more often involved with the criminal justice system?
To reiterate, I am in full support of B24-0254, the School Police Incident Oversight and Accountability Amendment Act of 2021 and B24-0306, the Youth Rights Amendment Act of 2021. It is my hope that as this process continues and new information unfolds, the DC Council will continue to focus its efforts on how to ensure our young people of color are safe in the District.
Thank you for allowing me to testify.