The same Pentagon program that provides surplus military equipment to local police departments has also provided heavy armor and weapons to school districts, and a group of civil rights groups are calling for an end to it.
A coalition spearheaded by the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Texas Appleseed, a social justice organization, on Monday sent a letter to the director of the Pentagon's Defense Logistic Agency urging the department stop sending military equipment to schools under the so-called 1033 program, which has come under intense scrutiny following the police crackdown last month in Ferguson, Mo.
The groups cited data showing that 22 school districts in eight states participate in the surplus transfer program, with 10 of them in Texas. Talking Points Memo first reported the letter.
In their letter to DLA director Mark Harnitcheck, the groups wrote that the events in Ferguson following the police shooting of an unarmed teenager "demonstrate the tensions that invariably develop between local law enforcement and the community when military equipment is unnecessarily deployed against citizens."
Adding the presence of military-grade weapons to school climates that have become increasingly hostile due to their overreliance on police to handle routine student discipline can only exacerbate existing tensions, intensifying overly punitive atmospheres that criminalize and stigmatize students of color."
According to data sent to The Wire from Texas Appleseed through the Texas Department of Public Safety, the gear transferred to school districts includes assault rifles, trucks, night-vision equipment and other armor valued in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.