Should the police be in schools?


The Uvalde, Texas school shooting that killed 19 children and two adults has reignited the long-running debate about police presence in schools.

Lawmakers and school leaders across the country are talking about having more armed guards, also known as school resource officers, stationed on campus.

Virginia plans to spend more than $27 million to fund police stations in schools. Kentucky passed a bill last week that requires all schools in the state to have school resource officers. A police chief in Somerset, Massachusetts, has asked to permanently increase the number of school resource officers.

“We know from past experiences that the most effective tool for keeping children safe is armed law enforcement on campus,” said U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, in an interview with MSNBC. May 24. right after shooting.

But researchers have found that campus policing does not reduce gun violence.

A 2021 JAMA Network open-label study examined the presence of armed officers at the scene and the occurrence and severity of mass school shootings from 1980 to 2019. The data suggests “no association between the presence of a armed officer and deterrence of violence in these cases” and no significant reduction in injury rates.

Another 2021 study by RAND Corporation, a nonprofit think tank, and the University of Albany used national school-level data from 2014 to 2018 to assess the impact of school resource officers. It found that officers reduced “some forms of school violence”, such as physical attacks and fights, but “do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents”.

Schools officers step up punishment for some students

The RAND study also indicated that school resource officers are increasing the use of suspensions, expulsions, referrals to police, and student arrests. And black students, male students, and students with disabilities bear the brunt of the punishments disproportionately.

The Center for Public Integrity found last year that in every state the rate at which students with disabilities were referred to law enforcement was higher than the rate for all students.

The question has particular resonance when it comes to very young children. A USA TODAY analysis of FBI data this year found that more than 2,600 children ages 5 to 9 were arrested in schools from 2000 to 2019. These children were disproportionately black and male, and the offenses were often listed as “assaults” by very young children against adults.

Two years ago, activists cited potential harm to children of color as a reason to pull police from schools after the killing of George Floyd. Some districts like Minneapolis and Denver have cut ties with the police.

Police presence in schools increases

Overall, school policing has increased over the past two decades.

Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows that 65% of public schools in the United States had at least one security staff member in 2019-20, up from 42% in 2005-06. Just over half had sworn law enforcement officers who regularly carry firearms, up from 43% in 2015-16, the first school year for which comparable statistics are available.

Some students of color say policing schools, rather than making them feel safer, causes greater unease.

“We don’t see a police presence as part of the solution,” high school senior Malika Mobley, co-chair of the Wake County Black Student Coalition in Raleigh, North Carolina, told The Associated Press recently.

“It was the wrong decision”: For 79 minutes police failed to act as children died at Uvalde school

A police officer arrested a 6-year-old child at school

Kaia Rolle illustrates what can happen when the police deal with very young students who misbehave on campus.

Three years ago, then aged 6, she wore sunglasses to school and threw a tantrum when a teacher told her to take them off. A school resource officer arrested her at school with zip ties and she was charged with assault and battery.

“She should never have been arrested in the first place,” Darryl Smith, Kaia’s attorney, told USA TODAY.

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USA Today

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