Racial Disparities in Arrests Contributing to Education Crisis for Oakland Students of Color

By: ACLU of Northern California

By Misha Cornelius
Black Organizing Project

Oakland police are arresting school-age African American youth at shockingly high rates, contributing to a burgeoning education crisis for students of color, according to a new report released today by the Black Organizing Project, ACLU of Northern California, and Public Counsel. The report, "From Report Card to Criminal Record: The Impact of Policing Oakland Youth," reveals disturbing trends about police interaction with Oakland's youth of color and especially with African-American boys.

According to data obtained by the groups:

  • Black youth accounted for 73.8% of all juvenile arrests by the Oakland Police Department since 2006, despite making up just 29.3% of Oakland's school-age population.

  • Black youth represented 70% of Oakland School Police Department arrests since 2010, though they are only 30.5% of the Oakland Unified School District student population.

  • In Oakland, African American youth are 24 times, Hispanic youth are 4 times, and Asian youth are 3 times more likely than whites to be arrested and booked.

  • Most arrests of black youth referred to Probation Department (78%) were later determined to be "not sustained" and the young people were not prosecuted, compared to 56% for all youth arrests.

"You can draw a straight line for too many of Oakland's black students from report card to criminal record," said Jacquelyn Byers, director of the Black Organizing Project. "Arrests and law enforcement contacts are driving students away from school and toward the criminal justice system, and police need to be part of the solution to our city's education crisis."

The report calls on Oakland leaders to promote policing alternatives such as positive behavior support that will help create safe, nurturing schools; make OUSD and OSPD accountable to the public through the new OSPD Complaint Policy approved by the board of education last year and create data systems that clearly and completely track police interactions with Oakland children; and limit the role of police to emergency response.

“Oakland’s overreliance on policing is driving black students away from school and contributing to the crisis in our community,” said Laura Faer, statewide education rights director for Public Counsel. “When we use alternatives that work, such as restorative justice and positive behavior support, suspensions decrease, student achievement increases and the need for police decreases too. The time to change this story is now.”

The Black Organizing Project, a Black, community-led, grassroots organization working for social and racial justice in Oakland, will report to the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Board of Directors tonight at the regularly scheduled school board meeting beginning at 6 p.m. Speakers will include OUSD parents, students impacted by over-policing in Oakland and community advocates for Oakland youth.

Download "From Report Card to Criminal Record: The Impact of Policing Oakland Youth" »

Misha Cornelius is the Communications Coordinator at the Black Organizing Project.