Public schools

Too Many Cops, Not Enough Counselors: Why Public Schools Are Such a Disaster

New data from the Education Department underscores the problem.

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Cop
Tom Dowd / Dreamstime

There are 1.6 million young people attending a public school that employs a police officer but no guidance counselor, according to new data released by the Education Department. 

That's just one of the noteworthy findings from the data, which was collected by the Office for Civil Rights and represents all 95,000 public schools in the country. 

The data also revealed just how ubiquitous police have become in American K-12 education. Cops are present in a quarter of public elementary schools and 42 percent of high schools. They are overrepresented in schools with significant numbers of black and Latino students, and these students are much more likely to be referred to law enforcement because of school disciplinary infractions. Black students, in fact, are 2.3 times more likely than white students to be arrested because of a school dispute. 

Historically speaking, cops in schools is a relatively new phenomenon. There were virtually no police officers assigned to patrol the halls of elementary and high schools prior to the 1970s. Today, of course, there are thousands of them. 

This matters a great deal. When there's no cop in the school, the school is more likely to deal with a disobedient student internally. In most cases—serious violence being an obvious exception—schools should handle badly behaved kids on their own. That's the entire purpose of public K-12 education: to socialize young people and correct misbehavior. Schools should be teaching kids to do the right thing, not locking them up for failing to be perfect adults. 

But when cops roam the schools, the schools are far more likely to get the criminal justice system involved. According to one study, the presence of a school resource officer makes law enforcement becoming involved in a behavioral issue about 1.6 times more likely. Having a run-in with law enforcement is a solid indicator that a kid will not graduate, and will have additional legal troubles later in life. 

The new Education Department data is a good reminder that one of the best things we could do for young people enrolled in the public education system would be to disentangle law enforcement from mundane disciplinary matters. With rare exception, cops do not belong in schools.

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  1. That cop is watching the marching band pretty intently.

    1. Have you ever seen what a flutist can do at 50 yards?

    2. He is checking out the be-denimed ladies.

      1. Sometimes I fear my jokes are too subtle.

        1. I wanted to type be-denimed, Hugh, because I like to entertain myself.

  2. aren’t guidance counselors just mocked and made fun of by the student body? that was my experience at least. complete waste of money. I mean so are cops in school but ya know..

    1. Completely. I think I was forced to see them once, that’s it.

    2. In junior high, I had one who knew nothing except how to blame the victim. In senior high, I had one who had no idea when the SAT was given.

    3. At my high school they mostly just did the administrative stuff when people chose their classes and helped you with college applications if you asked. Maybe they did some other stuff too, but that part, at least, was fairly useful.

      1. They deal with suicidal kids, cutting, home abuse, bullying, scheduling and random task the principal assigns.

        1. I thought we had someone else for the screwed up kids. A school psychologist or something. Maybe they did that too. I avoided as much interaction with staff and administration as I could.

          1. Most schools don’t have psychologist. Orange County has one for the county.

            1. Maybe they should get one instead of a cop.

    4. And that’s why you have cops now. ‘appy?

    5. They are also mocked by my friends that are teachers.

  3. While I couldn’t agree more about cops at school (libertarians have been comparing public school with jail for decades, and now it is literally true), WTF does not having a guidance counselor have to do with the price of tea in China? I mean at least they were harmless, unlike the cops. But they were fucking useless as well.

    1. The point is that misbehaving kids should be referred to a guidance counselor, not some dishonest thug with a club and a gun.

      1. I thought that’s what the dean was for?

        1. In my school, Sister Mary Elvira was both the guidance counselor and the cop.

      2. Guidance counselors aren’t there to mete out discipline. That is what Asst Principals or Deans are for.
        Guidance counselors are the shitty teachers that weren’t mean enough to become administrators. They are the ones that meet with the students once or twice a year and tell them to “pursue their dreams!” All while reminding the girls that math is hard and boys don’t like girls that are too smart!

  4. I agree that cops should not be working schools but correlation != causation.

  5. How is a cop with a taser, pepper spray and a nightstick not a guidance counselor?

  6. Too Many Cops, Not Enough Counselors: Why Public Schools Are Such a Disaster

    OK – that isn’t true at all. I’m willing to accept that there are too many cops (if only because it conforms to my own biases), but where’s the data on the *efficacy* of guidance counselors.

    Its entirely possible that there are too many cops *and* guidance counselors. But we’ll never know because these places won’t be allowed to experiment and be ruthlessly culled if they’re non-performers. Instead we’ll have a ‘Top Man’ deciding the proper number of guidance counselors using the ‘whatever furthers my career’ criterion and pushing requirements by fiat.

    1. but where’s the data on the *efficacy* of guidance counselors.

      High school guidance counselors provide a kind of excellence that can’t be measured with simple metrics.

    2. It’s starting to change. School counsellors are becoming more data driven.

      Data

      Personal feeling: public school should be abolished, parents should pay out of pocket to educate their own kids.

      1. School counsellors are becoming more data driven.

        You say that like it’s a good thing,

  7. RE: Too Many Cops, Not Enough Counselors: Why Public Schools Are Such a Disaster
    New data from the Education Department underscores the problem.

    Or could it be there are too many union goons and idiots in our public school monopoly ensuring indoctrination and not education results for the little people’s children while simultaneously doing everything they can to eliminate any vestiges of competition the education field?
    Nah, that can’t be.
    Unions only do what’s best for the common good for the unwashed masses.

  8. He counsels them to stop resisting.

    1. I take it you meant this as an answer to me, but don’t like to make eye contact.

      1. Not everything is about you, Paul.

  9. Almost as if cops are needed in school in bad areas. I didn’t have one in my school, my I could see if I lived in east San Jose, east Palo Alto, Oakland or the Tenderloin, you would need cops in schools

    1. I went to school in one of those “bad areas” – I am fully aware of what kids get up to. We had one or two retired cops wandering the halls IIRC. Basically security guards. Not armed. Everyone knew them on a first name basis. I don’t see the need for anything more than that.

  10. Okay I know most people are reflexively anti-cop here, but most teens are not angles. My friend used to work at the juvenile prison and could tell you stories. Without cops a lot of schools in bad areas would be lord of the flies

    1. but most teens are not angles

      Some of them are curves.

      1. I find this conversation obtuse.

          1. see this is why I love you, commentariat

    2. Yes, cops being needed for the schools in the bad areas justifies them in places like my high school or the elementary school down the street from me.

      1. Same here. I live in a pretty high-end neighborhood and they are always parked in front of the schools in the morning. Part of it is more connected to traffic safety/easy tax collection opportunities. The other part is connected to dating opportunities.

    3. Lord of the Flies is a shitty book.

  11. OT, and in case not already posted: DC approves minimum-wage hike.

    No way will this make more people in DC do business in Virginia.

      1. What does the Amalgamated Transit Union have to do with the fight for a $15 minimum wage?

        1. Probably the union pay rates are somehow tied to the minimum wage.

        2. In some of these districts you can duck the minimum wage law if your employees are unionized.

      2. The derp is so high among the comments. People literally ignoring the most basic of all economic principals for FEELZ and THE 1% and KUH-KUH-KUH-KORPORATIONZ!

        Then when your solutions fail, you blame that same group, rinse and repeat. Then you get babies dying in Venezuela because they can’t power hospitals

    1. Uh oh. Shit’s already overpriced in DC.

  12. I graduated high school in 1976 and public schools then were awful. They are way, way beyond awful now. My daughter graduated 10 years ago and you would not believe the amount of wasted time that was built into a typical school day. I say, without exaggeration, that a parent home-schooling a kid today could accomplish more in 90 minutes per day, 4 days a week, than a public school teacher does in a week in the depressing environment of a government school.

    1. Where I live schools only in session 6 months out of the year – 3 months summer vacation and then another three months of holidays and ‘planning exercises’

      I shit you not, the middle school has half-days on Wednesday so that the teachers can ‘plan’. The Navy’s starting that crap – called ‘ropeyarn’.

    2. I say, without exaggeration, that a parent home-schooling a kid today could accomplish more in 90 minutes per day, 4 days a week, than a public school teacher does in a week in the depressing environment of a government school.

      Of course. People have easy access to reliable information in today’s world, and home-schooling can be more easily adjusted to suit each individual child. Home-schooling is probably generally more efficient than private schools as well, let alone government-run schools.

      Also, you’re not exactly receiving a good education from these rote indoctrination factories, so the quality of the education will almost certainly be better too.

      But as we all know, you can’t socialize with others unless you’re locked in a jail-like environment with others your own age. Home-schooled children will turn out to be shut-ins who don’t know how to interact with others.

  13. Not only are there cops in schools here, there are schools that have their own Police DEPARTMENTS. And that’s not okay.

  14. That’s the entire purpose of public K-12 education: to socialize young people and correct misbehavior.

    Have we abandoned even the pretense that “instilling knowledge” is the purpose of the education system?

    1. hell the special snowflakes in college think it’s their job to teach everyone else, not to learn useful skills that will get them a better job

      1. Imagine my pain and trauma upon reading that.

    2. Ever try explaining to someone what the education establishment means by “socialization” ?
      Most people have no idea, the think it means how to get along with others and say please and thank you.
      Who the hell is John Dewey ?

  15. They are overrepresented in schools with significant numbers of black and Latino students, and these students are much more likely to be referred to law enforcement because of school disciplinary infractions.

    Put in there by racist Democrats.

    But Trump and Bruce Rauner are the racists for what they observe.

  16. I attended high school back in the early 80’s. We had a lot less cops than today but the problem wasn’t a lack of guidance counselors. Instead it was an absolute lack of competency.

    My counselor required I take a typing course (as in office typing) before I could take any computer courses. Yeah that skill really proved handy as word processors were already taking over the business world.

    And the same moron recommended I not apply to college, as I was “not cut out for it.” Had she been worth the time and effort by ’89 I’d have tracked her down and stapled my professional doctorate to her forehead.

    The last thing we need is more “counselors” as I doubt they have made them any better over the years.

    1. What we really need are less authors writing at “libertarian” websites telling us that the solution to a problem is more government.

    2. And the same moron recommended I not apply to college, as I was “not cut out for it.”

      Now, to be fair, it may have been wrong in your case, but that advice would apply nicely to 99% of the people who want to go to college. Even most people who do end up graduating only were able to do so because most colleges and universities have terrible standards.

      That’s why I think that that needs to be the default advice we give to people.

      1. The default advice from government employees should be: Not a thing. We shouldn’t be paying them to advocate in either direction.

        1. I wasn’t thinking of the government when I said that, but I agree.

    3. My counselor required I take a typing course …

      In 1960, in the 8th grade, due to scheduling problems, I had to take typing. The counselor apologized profusely, as I was white, male, and had good grades. Obviously I would go to college, get an executive position, and have a secretary to do all the necessary typing.

      My father, however, short-circuited any inclination I might have to not take the class seriously. He figured typing might come in handy.

  17. We’ve made a lot of progress in developing good solutions since he wrote it, which makes it more than a little dated, but has good points and its underlying philosophy is pretty relevant (plus it’s a classic). You may have already read it but: http://www.constitution.org/cb/crim_pun.htm

  18. I don’t know what anyone else’s experiences were, but back in the stone age when I was in high school, there was no more pathetic, useless creature on the faculty than the guidance counselor.

  19. And here the beloved NRA wants armed guards in every school. And that would be better than police. Riiiight!

    1. Police point their guns in. The NRA wants guards pointing their guns out.

      I know that is a distinction lost on you.

    2. Guards and their employers are held accountable if something goes sideways. Cops get a paid vacation and a promotion.

    3. Someone should have a gun handy, but it doesn’t have to be a “guard.”

      According to the Texas Association of School Boards more than 10% of Texas school districts have some form of teacher carry. Seems to be working out just fine.

      The problem with dedicated guards, as well as police, is that you can’t have them just stand around all day waiting for an active killer or whatever, who probably won’t show up. They have to be assigned other duties just to keep them occupied.

      Teachers already have such “day jobs.”

  20. If kids are being forced to go someplace by the government, then the government had a duty to protect them from harm. Which in theory is police.

    I don’t see why they have a duty for guidance counselors, which are at best harmless, and worst will probably screw up the kids minds..

  21. “Black students, in fact, are 2.3 times more likely than white students to be arrested because of a school dispute.”

    Is that the arrest ratio of black students involved in school disputes vs. white students involved in school disputes? Or is it black students are 2.3 times more likely than white ones to be involved in school disputes in the first place?

  22. There are 1.6 million young people attending a public school that employs a police officer but no guidance counselor,

    Never mind the cop, you’re missing the big story: That’s one huuuuge school!

  23. What this article omits is the reason all those cops are at the schools in the first place: Sandy Hook.

    The only way to deter or stop someone from coming in a school and shooting kids is to have someone on campus with a gun.

    But such events are very rare, so cops or guards almost always have nothing to do.

    Since you can’t have employees just hanging around all day twiddling thumbs, they tend to pick up school-related duties, like DARE officer, interacting with disruptive kids, and serving as an easy backup when it comes to discipline.

    You aren’t going to get rid of the defensive guns until there’s an effective way to prevent school shootings. So if you don’t want cops or guards, the other solution is to have school personnel, either teachers or staff, carry the guns.

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