Policy

Cops in Schools, Kids in Court

One of the worst byproducts of school security fears.

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The New York Times describes one of the worst byproducts of school security fears:

Dear old golden rule days.

As school districts across the country consider placing more police officers in schools, youth advocates and judges are raising alarm about what they have seen in the schools where officers are already stationed: a surge in criminal charges against children for misbehavior that many believe is better handled in the principal's office.

Since the early 1990s, thousands of districts, often with federal subsidies, have paid local police agencies to provide armed "school resource officers" for high schools, middle schools and sometimes even elementary schools. Hundreds of additional districts, including those in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have created police forces of their own, employing thousands of sworn officers.

Preparing kids for a lifetime of air travel.

The article goes on to describe the petty offenses that have pushed many of those kids into the criminal justice system (one teen had to go to court following "a brief fight on a school bus in November after another boy, a security video showed, hit him first") and the ways that system processes the students (one woman in the piece describes "'plea mills,' with students pleading guilty in the hope that, once they paid a fine and spent hours cleaning parks, the charges would be expunged"). There are also signs, in the post-Newtown era, that the practice in on the rise:

Many districts are clamoring for police officers. "There's definitely a massive trend toward increasing school resource officers, so much so that departments are having trouble buying guns and supplies," said Michael Dorn, director of Safe Havens International, in Macon, Ga., a safety consultant to schools.

One district in Florida, Mr. Dorn said, is looking to add 130 officers, mainly to patrol its grade schools. McKinney, Tex., north of Dallas, recently placed officers in its five middle schools.

The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.

The article notes that both the NRA and the White House have called for more cops in schools, a fact that reinforces my fears that a quiet convergence is at work here. I hate to fall into the Annoying Blogger Habit of quoting myself, but this is a point that bears repeating:

In theory, the current debate over school security pits the advocates of new gun controls against the advocates of arming school personnel. In practice, it's easy to imagine those positions converging on a middle ground that should horrify both principled liberals and principled conservatives: one where the "school resource officers" who increasingly patrol the halls are more likely to be armed, and where the rules they enforce are more likely to entail absurd zero-tolerance decrees.

Read the whole Times piece here.