New report shows big increase in arrests of students at Iowa schools, as well as racial disparities

Zak Neumann/Little Village

Iowa saw one of the biggest increases in students arrested at school of any state between the 2013-14 and 2015-16 school years, according to a new report from the ACLU. While arrests of students at schools increased 3 percent nationwide during that period, Iowa saw an increase of 105 percent, going from 601 arrests in 2013-14 to 1,230 arrests in 2015-16.

The ACLU used data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Civil Rights Data Collection in compiling its report.

Only six states had a larger percentage increase in total student arrests at schools than Iowa during the period the report covers.

The report also breaks down the arrest at school statistics for the 2015-16 school year by race, and presents those statistics by number of arrests per 10,000 students to allow comparisons between states, and minority students are arrested at a much higher rate than white students.

Although Iowa’s rate of arrest of white students that year — 31 per 10,000 students — is one of the highest in the nation, the state ranks first in the nation in percentage of black students arrested compared to the overall student population, with 125 arrests per 10,000 students.

Iowa also ranked as one of the top 10 states for its arrest rates of Pacific Islander students (first place nationally with 80 arrests), Asian students (second place, 13 arrests), Native American students (sixth place, 51 arrests) and Latino students (10th place, 22 arrests) per 10,000 students.

The ACLU report, Cops and No Counselors: How the Lack of Mental Health Staff is Harming Students, finds that “schools are under-resourced and students are over-criminalized.”

The American School Counselors Association’s guidelines call for one counselor for every 250 students, but according to the report, only three states — Montana, New Hampshire and Vermont — meet this standard. Statewide in Iowa, there is one counselor for every 378 students.

Replying to emailed questions from Little Village, Iowa Department of Communication Communications Director Staci Hupp said, “We have not seen the report and are unable to speak to the statistics because our department does not track arrests in schools.”

“While student discipline in Iowa is a local decision left up to schools, we believe involving law enforcement should be a last resort and that students of color must be treated with the fairness and respect that all children deserve,” Hupp said.

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