Racial Justice

O’Neill School researchers explore racial justice

As racial tensions rise across the U.S., many communities are breaking out in civil unrest. The historical roots of racism run deep, and its pernicious effects can be seen in our criminal justice system, our schools, our healthcare system, and our environment. By studying relationships marked by racial injustice—like those between law enforcement and minority students, racial segregation and urban ecology, or COVID-19 and vulnerable populations—scholars at the Indiana University O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs are researching ways to create a path toward transformative, sustainable change. 

Issues of racial equity are not contained to one policy arena; rather, these issues permeate health, education, housing, environmental policy, and more in the United States and countries around the world.

— Amanda Rutherford, Associate Professor and Director, Undergraduate Honors Program

School safety—for some

Seventy percent of students in the U.S. report having a police officer or security guard in their school—but it’s unclear whether their presence is making students safer or loading the school-to-prison pipeline. Amanda Rutherford will study the effects of school-based policing on educational outcomes.

Race-based inequities in urban forests

Throughout the U.S., people of color have less access to urban trees than white residents—and less access to their benefits, like stormwater regulation, improved air quality, and aesthetic enjoyment. Sarah Mincey will lead a team of researchers in creating an inventory of Indiana’s urban tree quantity and quality, assessing race-based inequities in public, urban forests across Indiana cities.

Mapping environmental justice

People of color are more likely to live in communities located near landfills and hazardous waste sites, more likely to be affected by lead hazards in their soil and water, and less likely to live near green spaces and public parks. As a step toward environmental justice, David Konisky and Janet McCabe plan to use a mapping tool to identify areas in Indiana overburdened by these risks.

Police training as reform

Recent police brutality against Black Americans has sparked calls for reform and a renewed interest in the types of training police officers receive. Jill Nicholson-Crotty will study whether problem solving, mediation, and de-escalation techniques yield different outcomes than more aggressive forms of training.