U.S Rep. Ayanna Pressley and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren indirectly weighed in on Beacon Hill's raging debate over policing reform on Wednesday, announcing new federal legislation prohibiting the use of federal funding on police in schools.
The presence of police in schools has featured prominently in the legislation and debate over the past couple of weeks in the Legislature, and House and Senate negotiators are currently trying to strike a compromise on policing reform plans.
The bill filed in Congress by Pressley, Warren, Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut would also establish a $2.5 billion grant program for schools to replace resource officers with counselors, social workers, nurses and mental health practitioners.
"Every student should be able to learn in a setting free from fear," Pressley said in a statement. "But for too many young people - particularly Black and brown students, immigrant students, students with disabilities, LGBTQ+ students and other historically marginalized students - the very presence of police officers in schools increases the likelihood that they will be criminalized and put on a path to confinement for everyday childhood behavior."
On Beacon Hill, the Senate's bill would no longer require a school resource officer to be assigned to every school, instead leaving the decision to the district's superintendent of schools to request an officer.
The House proposed the creation of a commission to develop a memorandum of understanding about the role of school resource officers and how they will interact with students. Both branches also support new training and certification requirements for school resource officers.
Pressley and Warren previously sided with state legislators fighting to reform qualified immunity for police. Now they've let it be known where they stand on another key policing issue.
"Counselors, nurses, social workers, and educators belong in schools. Police do not," Warren said.