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The ever-growing list of names of Black victims who have died at the hands ofpolice has emboldened a new public narrative that frames police violence—and other more commonplace, though less lethal, disparate policing practices—as a public health crisis rooted in this country’s history of racism and anti-Blackness. This public narrative in turn has spawned a diverse set of responsive actions in both the public and private sectors directed at addressing the effects of individual and structural racism on health. Yet missing from this linkage between police violence and racialized health disparities is any focus on the educational system, despite the increasing prevalence of police and standard policing practices in K-12 schools and the clear racial disparities of school policing. The central claim of this Essay is that school policing is an obvious public health issue. It sits at the nexus of two critical social determinants of health—education and racism—and requires targeted attention as such. The racialized nature of school-policing practices and the disparate outcomes for Black students are well documented. And, by applying a public health lens to this school police literature, specific individual- and aggregate-level health and mental outcomes become apparent. School policing negatively affects Black students’ mental health and physical safety, diminishes protective health factors, and places students at heightened risk for justice-system entry. Finally, understanding school policing as a public health issue has significant potential benefits and practical implications, especially for the antiracist health-equity movement.

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Stanford Law Review Online