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It’s become fairly common in the United States for police officers to patrol school hallways.

A critical report in The Guardian asks why our country is criminalizing normal childhood behavior:

In 2010, the police gave close to 300,000 “Class C misdemeanour” tickets to children as young as six in Texas for offences in and out of school, which result in fines, community service and even prison time. What was once handled with a telling-off by the teacher or a call to parents can now result in arrest and a record that may cost a young person a place in college or a job years later.

In Rochester, parents, school board members and city council members have complained about the volume of student arrests. One solution – that no one ever brings up – is to simply not have officers in schools. An officer is required to uphold the law when he’s on duty. If he is expected to check his badge at the door, perhaps another adult is best-suited to enforcing discipline. It could be inappropriate and unethical for school officials to tell officers when they can and cannot make arrests in their buildings.

I’d love to see a comprehensive study on the impact of officers in schools. What are the costs and benefits? Do officers maintain their independence? Do schools with officers have a lower incidence of violence and other crime? What is the student arrest rate at schools with and without officers? What kinds of relationships do officers forge with students?

Since Columbine and the implementation of “zero tolerance” policies, few people have questioned the presence of school officers. I’m sure they do a lot of good and help many staff members and students. But that doesn’t mean they’re a good fit in a school system. I want to learn more.

10 Responses to Do Police Belong in Schools?

  1. My impression is that there is occasional violence in the schools. I think police preventing and protecting against violence is appropriate. I had heard that one positive aspect of Brizard’s in-school suspension policy was that instead of just getting violent kids out of the school for a few days, they were having them arrested. That sounds like an appropriate response to violence. Rachel, you’re the one that went to a city school, what do you think?

    • I went to a city school that was fairly violent and we had no officers. I question if schools are less violent with officers an without. Also, what’s the point of reducing suspensions if the kids are arrested, anyway?

      I really don’t have a position. I’m just questioning the system and would love to see an analysis. I’m asking a lot of questions but I don’t have the answers.

  2. I’d say the point of reducing suspensions is that days off school is not an appropriate deterrent to violence in school. Being arrested is an appropriate response in my opinion, especially if the violence involves a weapon. As far as an analysis, a poll of teachers opinions on whether the school is safer with the police would probably be useful. I’d say students too, but they probably haven’t seen it both ways (with and without police).

  3. Are the administrators at the schools part of the chain of command for these police? If not, perhaps they should be. A school is a community, in many ways the first community (outside of family) for young people, and the administrators are charged with maintaining it. If police are arresting non-violent offenders without administrator approval that needs to be fixed, whether or not the blame for that falls on the cops.

    • Totally disagree. School admins are not the boss of police. That is rife with conflict. Let police be police and school admins be school admins. I know of situations where principals directed police to make unwarranted arrests or told them not to make warranted arrests. If we don’t want cops making arrests, maybe time to ask why they are there?

      • To the extent that there’s weapons at schools, I think police are needed. My personal idea would be that the police would not be there for any other purpose than to prevent violence. And they would presumably be as fair and careful as possible in assessing blame. I would be in favor of police searching a locker and completely ignoring drugs, but coming down hard on weapons. I guess they don’t really have that option though.

      • In cases of violence, I absolutely agree, it needs to be stopped then and there as it is happening. However do you let the cops make arrests for disorderly conduct, vandalism or a host of other offenses that might better be handled in the school? If the cops are going to be there, those are questions that need to be asked and administrators, as well as parents and teachers, should be part of answering them. Aside from the obvious effect of worsening students perception of cops it makes for a lot more work than is necessary for cops.
        With that in mind I am more likely to come down on the side of not having them there unless called for. Maybe the logistics of communicating with administrators is too much of a burden, but if that is the case, then yeah, leave them out.

        • I think the question comes down to who requested police in the schools in the first place. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, school board? If the request came from people in the school building out of concern for their own safety, how many different people who want them there does it take to validate having them there. Or another way, how many people who feel they need police protection at school can be ignored? If the placement of police at schools comes from outside of the school, that’s easier to discount and ignore.

      • I agree so much!We dont need police to make us safe-if anything ,i think they will cause MORE problems!

  4. http://flowercityparents.org/forum/index.php?topic=3141.msg10265#msg10265

    We’ve been discussing this sort of topic for a while on the Flower City Parents forum.

    I would simply like city and suburban students to be treated in the same manner, with respect and dignity. I also expect all students to behave in the same way towards others.

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