The following is by Sean Perryman, Education Chair for the Fairfax County NAACP. Also see the comments, below Sean’s post, by Fairfax County School Board member Pat Hynes and Fairfax County NAACP President Kofi Annan. The original Fairfax County Times article referred to is here; the key line by Fairfax County Police Chief Edwin C. Roessler, Jr. is “the data is being used unethically by several to accuse my SRO of arresting disproportionately minorities.”
In response to data that 95 percent of the students arrested from Sandburg Middle School were Black and Latinx kids and that the majority of the arrests didn’t relate to safety, [Fairfax County Police] Chief [Edwin C.] Roessler has repeatedly implied publicly that the Fairfax County NAACP and Kofi Annan are misleading people.
Here’s Roessler’s explanation in this article:
“The data that was FOIA’d represents either probation, parole, or a parent that was a petitioner because their child was a victim of a crime by someone else,” Roessler said. “…It doesn’t mean there was an arrest at the school. This could’ve been somewhere else. It just represents that they go to the school, so the data is being used unethically by several to accuse my SRO of arresting disproportionately minorities.”
That is a truly embarrassing excuse and he should check his definition of unethical. The NAACP’s point from the beginning is that black and brown kids have been over criminalized and directed to the school to prison pipeline. His response is essentially “well, we arrested some of them off of school grounds” or at best that the data is unclear. You can see that some of these people truly miss the point. He doesn’t dispute that it could be as high as 95 percent of the arrests being people of color, only the location of the arrest. Regardless, if anyone has data to show that SROs in Fairfax County do not disproportionately punish children of color, I welcome it with open arms.
The chief should apologize immediately. If there’s anything unethical, it’s the perpetuation of a system that punishes kids of color, not the NAACP using the very data the county provided. If they want to distinguish between children arrested on and off school property or whether it is probation or parole, they can sort the data differently.
Kofi Annan This is just the latest explanation of these embarrassing numbers, and simply a last ditch effort to protect his program from scrutiny and public accountability. It’s a shame that he would go so low as to use inflammatory and misleading terms like “unethical” to describe our efforts to keep kids out of the criminal justice system. But like our former First Lady said, when they go low, we go high. We will not be deterred or intimidated. We’re going to persevere until the MoU reflects the state guidelines and offers protection so parents and students rights are restored, and kids stop getting arrested for making childish mistakes. At the same time FCPS must put more emphasis on bringing in mental health professionals and social workers to help correct behavior. The eighteen additional proposed is a good start, but doesn’t come nearly close enough to addressing the issue. SROs do not prevent school shootings like Roessler would have you believe. The Parkland shooter was fully aware that an SRO was assigned to his school, yet made the decision to commit the act. Everyone knew he was a troubled kid yet he was not provided the resources to address his problems. Not to mention the SRO stood outside while it happened waiting for backup. The next community meeting is Thurs the 19th at 7pm in Conference Room 9/10 at the Fairfax County Government Center. Make your presence felt.
Pat Hynes NAACP shouldn’t need a friend on the board or a FOIA request to get the same information the county has. There should be no question that accurate data on arrests of kids is available to the public, disaggregated by demographic status and geographic location. If there’s a dispute about data, that’s the fault of the public institution that controls that data, not the organization trying to advocate. To take the further step and call that organization’s use of that data unethical is grossly unfair.