From ACLU of Iowa <[email protected]>
Subject Students who helped expel police from schools win ACLU of Iowa award
Date January 27, 2022 3:06 PM
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Endí Montalvo-Martinez and Lyric Sellers of Des Moines are the winners of our Robert Mannheimer Youth Advocacy Award.

Friend –

In part because of the advocacy of two students, Des Moines Public Schools finally ended its harmful School Resource Officer (SRO) program. Now, those two students – Endí Montalvo-Martinez, age 18, and Lyric Sellers, age 17 – are being awarded the ACLU of Iowa's Robert Mannheimer Youth Advocacy Award for their important work.

Endí and Lyric, then students at East High School, created a powerful racial equity proposal on their own time and through their own initiative. It documented the racial disparities perpetuated by police in schools and was an important element in the district's decision to remove armed police from its buildings.

Endí and Lyric created the proposal because they knew many of their peers, especially other students of color, were intimidated by SROs. They reached out to the Iowa Department of Human Rights and gathered data on racial disparities perpetuated by the SRO program. Data showed Black students were six times more likely to interact with police officers in DMPS schools than white students.

The results came as no surprise to the students. "I just don't feel comfortable around police. I never have because I see exactly what they do to people that look like me," said Lyric, a senior at East High School. "When you walk into your building and see an officer, you immediately feel distrusted by the people in your building."

Endí and Lyric's research for the proposal also found that most infractions handled by SROs rarely amounted to even a simple misdemeanor and could often be handled within school buildings using a restorative justice model.

"SROs don't ensure student safety. SRO programs just give some people a sense of safety. But we see through the data and lived experience of students that SROs don't actually help," said Endí, now a community public health major at Iowa State University. "I think it's very wrong not to reimagine a new system that does work for students."

Other components of Endí and Lyric's proposal included implementing classes like Chicano studies, African American studies, and LGBTQ history at East High School. They also successfully advocated for removing the offensive Native American mascot at their school. Read more about Endí and Lyric. <[link removed]>

Find out more about the ACLU of Iowa's Robert Mannheimer Award. <[link removed]>

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