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More Police In Schools Leads to More Students Under Arrest

More Police In Schools Leads to More Students Under Arrest

After the Sandy Hook School tragedy and too many reports of school shootings to count, school districts across the U.S. are clamoring for more police in their schools. The National Rifle Association has wasted no time in calling for police officers in every single school. But while it is not at all clear if the full-time presence of police officers deters crime or the threat of armed intruders, putting more police officers in school has resulted in more student arrests and misdemeanor charges “for essentially nonviolent behavior including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers,” the New York Times reports

Police (and metal detectors) in the corridors of U.S. school are nothing new. As one my college students noted, at her New York City high school, students had to go through as much security every day to get to their classes as passengers do to get on airplanes, removing belts, shoes and anything with metal. Now, it seems that students can expect to see police officers as routinely as teachers.

“No Evidence” That Police in Schools Improves Safety

The Obama administration has called for an increase in police officers in the nations’s schools. Indeed, since the 1990s, thousands of federal dollars have been allocated for “police resource officers” in elementary, middle and high schools since the 1990s. School districts including those of Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia have their own police forces.

A full-time police presence in school hallways certainly changes a school’s atmosphere, but as University of Maryland criminologist Denise C. Gottfredson says in the New York Times: “There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety. And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.”

Rather than providing security, police officers end up dealing with disciplinary issues that schools themselves should address — instead of enhancing students’ safety, school districts hand over discipline to law enforcement. Having students cited for misbehavior teaches them nothing and certainly not positive, pro-active strategies for dealing with anger, impulsivity and other challenging behaviors.

Minority Students More Frequently Arrested

What’s more, black and Latino/a students, as well as students with disabilities, are arrested or given criminal citations in disproportionate numbers, as civil rights groups including the NAACP report. Youth advocates have begun to fight back and not only because of the injustice of students having to face criminal courts for infractions such as cursing at teachers or truancy. Not only do they end up missing school for court appearances; students also face fines, community service and criminal charges on their record that can mean rejection from the military and jobs.

The case of 12-year-old De’Angelo Rollins is too typical. Soon after starting to attend Bryan Middle School in Texas (where some 100,000 misdemeanor tickets are written up for students in one year), he and another boy got into a scuffle and were both issued citations. De’Angelo had to go through “repeated court appearances;” he pleaded no contest and was fined $69 and sentenced to 20 hours of community service and four months probation.

Of course students must be safe in school, but simply calling in police officers is a sign that school districts are foregoing educating students and addressing their challenges. As no one less than Wallace B. Jefferson, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Texas, said in a speech to the Legislature in March, “We are criminalizing our children for nonviolent offenses.”

Forget about a school-to-prison pipeline. What’s really going on in public schools in the U.S. is that school is prison, or a place where you’re under constant surveillance by the police.

Related Care2 Coverage

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118 comments

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11:59PM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

I guess most of you have upper class schools or do home schooling. I'm 71, and I carried a razor to school. We taped a single edge to a finger with a bandaid. It was considered an upper class school-good zip code and some students were dropped off by the chauffeur or had new hot wheels.

11:53PM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

Hey, you've never had a knife fight in your school or been stabbed by a student. I have.

8:14AM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

The police should not be in schools. Police have this idea that you are doing something wrong unless proven otherwise. Not a great attitude in a school with small or even teenage children. But also back when I was a teenager, in the dark ages, kids were smart enough to have their fights off school grounds. That way the school officials were not involved. Today it seems kids bully on school grounds and teachers look the other way.

1:49AM PDT on Apr 19, 2013

I am sure the is great laughter coming down from the ages. Teenage years have always been ones of rebellion and fights. We have writings from thousand of years. But the difference is political correctness. It causes more trouble. It would be better to sent troublesome students to military boarding school. There the excess energy could be channeled.

6:26PM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

After Sandy Hook our school got a security guard and an armed police resource officer. One day during classes his gun went off and now we have a bullet hole in our hallway floor.

4:10PM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

I do not believe that police should be in schools unless they are called by the school itself for a particular situation.

If schools are to be protected then guards should be placed to protect. The purpose of police is to enforce law not guard schools. If you put them in schools you send a message that the students need policing.

If teachers are not getting the support and respect from the students or their parents then that is a matter for the school not the courts.

The US is getting to be such a weird place. I just hope it does not infect Australia.

2:10PM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

We gotta admit, some schools NEED police. That is reality. And most of these kids belong to people having too many kids. Kids they cannot afford. Kids they refuse to raise and discipline. Kids that roam the street, in gangs etc etc etc. Police in every school. No. A few armed teachers YES. Police in some of the bad schools for the protection of students who want to be there and learn and not be beaten, sexually assaulted and driven out of school when they WANT an education. ABSOLUTELY.

And if you don't want your kid in that school. Take him out. Period. Some schools SCREAM for police protection.

11:21AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

Police overstep in their job.

8:17AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

The school-to-prison-pipeline (please do click it in the story) works so well in the USA (NOT!), why not put more police in the schools, and keep doing what you're doing in the way of educating American youth? Cutting programs like Headstart continuously for children living in poverty, and expecting good results from the school system is madness! Check out the article "US gets an F in Child Welfare and an A in Military Spending" for a good overview.

7:40AM PDT on Apr 18, 2013

Thanks for sharing.

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Kristina Chew Kristina Chew teaches and writes about ancient Greek and Latin and is Online Advocacy and Marketing... more
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