The Advancement Project
February 17, 2021 6:55 AM EST

As calls to defund police departments and confront racial injustice grew louder last year, many student activists argued that schools, where police officers have had a growing presence, would be a good place to start. Jonathan Stith—the national director of the Alliance for Educational Justice, a coalition of 26 organizations including the Puente Human Rights Movement and the Black Organizing Project—helps students and organizers across the U.S. push for change. “We just want a fundamentally different relationship between our schools and our young folks,” he says, citing statistics showing that Black students are far more likely than white students to be suspended, expelled and arrested in school. Last year, he adds, there was unprecedented progress: at least 30 U.S. school districts moved to cut ties with police in 2020, including Minneapolis, Denver and Oakland, Calif. Stith says he is currently working with activists in more than 15 others. —Katie Reilly

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