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Weekend Read: Students of color need the March for Our Lives the most

Javon Davies is only 12, but he just finished writing his will.

He had heard about the shooting in Parkland, Florida, and about the shooting three weeks later of 17-year-old Courtlin Arrington at her high school in Birmingham, Alabama.

So when his middle school in Birmingham went on lockdown, Javon thought he might die. On loose-leaf paper, in pencil, he listed his possessions.

“I love you my whole Family you mean the most to me,” Javon wrote. “You gave me the clothes on my back, you fed me, and you were always by my side.”

Javon made it home that day, but too many kids do not. And many others are traumatized by school shootings. The Washington Post released a powerful report this week finding that, since Columbine, more than 187,000 students have been on campuses during a shooting at their school. The majority are children of color.

Black students are three times as likely — and Hispanic students, nearly twice as likely — as white students to experience gun violence at school.

They are also more likely to attend a school with on-campus police. That does not make them safer.

School resource officers were present during four of the five worst school shootings. The shootings happened anyway. Only one time before this month had a school resource officer ever gunned down an active shooter.

But if on-campus police rarely deter school shootings, they do reinforce the school-to-prison pipeline — the same pipeline that excludes black children across the country from school at three times the rate of their white peers, despite research showing that children of all races misbehave at similar rates.

We know that racial bias is present in our schools. Arming educators won’t help us dismantle it, and, some evidence suggests, it would make students of color even more vulnerable.

“If law enforcement professionals with extensive training to handle firearms make mistakes with them,” ask John Woodrow Cox and Steven Rich in their report for The Washington Post, “what might go wrong if educators with far less training carry the same lethal weapon?”

Today, Parkland students will lead the March for Our Lives in Washington, DC. They’re demanding that lawmakers act to end gun violence and stop the plague of mass school shootings.

But keeping students safe means more than enacting sensible restrictions on who can own guns and how lethal those weapons can be. It also means making sure that racial bias doesn’t push students of color into the school-to-prison pipeline — or in front of armed school officials.

The Editors.

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SPLC’s Weekend Read is a weekly summary of the most important news reporting and commentary from around the country on civil rights, economic and racial inequality, and hate and extremism. Sign up to receive the Weekend Read every Saturday morning.