US schools now have more security guards than social workers

A new study suggests a disparity in public schools' efforts to protect their students

By AJ Willingham

Published September 4, 2018

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A new study by the American Civil Liberties Union and the UCLA Civil Rights Project shows a gap between the number of security officers and mental health workers in public schools.

Here are some key findings from the study.*

*Based on US Department of Education data from the 2015-2016 school year.

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> 96,000

The number of public schools in the United States, as of 2016

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> 27,000

The number of sworn law enforcement officers reported in public schools


The number of social workers reported in public schools

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During the 2015-2016 school year, more than

10 million

students attended schools that reported having school resource officers (law enforcement), but no social workers.

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The ratio of students to counselors in public schools as recommended by the American School Counselors Association.


The actual ratio of students to counselors. That represents a caseload 78% greater than what professionals recommend.

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36 million

students are enrolled in schools that don’t meet that recommended ratio.

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The ACLU's report comes as schools across the US are grappling with school safety and student well-being.

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Some schools are considering arming teachers, and there are debates over what kind of school security measures can be supported with federal funds.


The ACLU’s report suggests schools should devote more resources to hiring mental health and support personnel, such as guidance counselors and social workers, than investing in more security systems.

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