Do the police have a place in American schools?

“The 360” shows you various perspectives on the main stories and debates of the day.

What is happening

An 18-year-old woman in Long Beach, Calif., Who was shot in the head by a school safety officer earlier this week, was removed from the resuscitation system on Friday, according to a family lawyer. Mona Rodriguez, the mother of a 5-month-old, was allegedly involved in an altercation near a local high school on Monday that prompted the officer to intervene. As Rodriguez and two others attempted to leave the scene, the officer fired at least two shots in the back of the car they were traveling in, as video of the incident shows.

The Rodriguez shooting has drawn national attention to the ongoing debate over whether police belong to schools. Over the past several decades, school police officers – commonly referred to as School Resource Officers (SROs) or School Safety Officers – have become increasingly present on elementary and secondary school campuses in America.

In 1975, only 1% of schools reported having agents on site. But a series of deadly mass shootings, beginning with the Columbine Massacre in 1999, and a broad “crime-hardening” approach by the police have led more and more administrators to rely on law enforcement agents. armed order. In 2018, ORS were present in at least 58% of American schools, including 72% of high schools.

There has been strong opposition to police in schools for years, but the movement to suppress them has gained significant momentum following the racial justice protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May. 2020. In the 12 months since Floyd’s death, at least 33 school districts got rid of the police from the school. Others, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, have either cut SRO budgets or decided to redefine their roles in schools.

Why there is debate

Supporters of removing police from schools point to a growing body of research that suggests SROs do little to reduce violence on campus, and their presence can have a huge impact on students. Research shows that schools with SROs may actually have higher rates of behavioral incidents and more student arrests and disciplinary cases. This impact is disproportionately felt by students of color, who are considerably more likely to be disciplined or arrested by SROs – a trend that advocates of criminal justice reform say is fueling the ‘pipeline of school in prison ”.

Schools that have eliminated or reduced the role of SROs often invest the money they spent on law enforcement in other resources such as counselors, psychologists, social workers, and teacher training. Reformists argue that these student support roles help tackle the root causes that lead to violence, when the police can only intervene after the fact.

Advocates for school resource officials say they are needed to protect students, both from mass shootings and from the more common acts of violence that plague many schools. While most say they support increasing the number of counselors and other support staff, they say it can be accomplished while keeping the police on campus for protection.

And after

The name of the officer who shot Rodriguez has not yet been released. The Long Beach Police Department and the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office said they were investigating the incident.


Police don’t make schools safer

“The police in schools are symbolic. They provide an easy answer to fears about violence, guns and mass shootings. They allow policy makers to demonstrate their commitment to school safety. And for a while, they allow teachers and parents to “feel” safe. But those who have studied school policing tell us that it is a false sense of security. Schools with school resource officers are not necessarily safer. – Kristin Henning, Vox

Children deserve to go to crime-free schools

“Let’s be creative in dealing with non-violent offenses. No, let’s not involve law enforcement too early when no one is threatened. But the simple fact is that some children should be arrested. Some children should have a criminal record. By trying to protect these children from themselves, school districts make innocent students and teachers more vulnerable. It is an unacceptable compromise. – David French, National Review

School funding should be used to create proven systems of student support

“Every dollar spent on police, metal detectors and surveillance cameras is a dollar that would be better invested in trained professionals who support, not criminalize, children. Children deserve spaces where they can learn, thrive and feel safe. Until then, the fight continues. – Judith Browne Dianis, Education Week

Improving support services should not come at the expense of safety

“The retraining of security guards is good, as is the rise of guidance counselors, who are far too rare. But it’s folly to believe that cheerful talk and social support is the only answer when some teens bring knives and guns, illegal narcotics and malicious intent into schools. To protect the children, someone has to stand guard. – Editorial, New York Daily News

School officers often turn normal childhood behavior into a criminal case

“Allowing police officers to deal with minor offenses in schools unnecessarily marks a student’s first contact with the criminal justice system, potentially preparing them for a lifetime of collateral consequences. – Ryan King and Marc Schindler, Brookings

Police presence makes students of color unwelcome in their own schools

“The officers, armed or not, are agents of authorized power with a legacy of violence. Where the officers go, the message also goes that it is better to watch their steps. No child can learn if he does not feel safe, and no school policeman patrolling the hallways is signaling safety; rather, they denote a walking threat. – Zachary Wright, Philadelphia investigator

School police needed to prevent mass shootings

“How exactly can students fight for their lives against a mad gunman who walks into their school at noon and starts a shootout?” More importantly, how does the school board believe that students should defend themselves, when it is possible to have an armed and paid police force? – Nicole Russell, Examiner from Washington

School shootings are extremely rare

“I think we find that principals, policy makers and probably parents, to some extent, kind of have this overwhelming fear of gun violence in schools. … Even though we have heard about gun violence in schools almost every week or every month for the past few years, these events remain statistically very rare. But they have such emotional significance because they are so tragic that no head teacher wants this to happen in their schools. – Ben Fisher, criminology researcher, to NBC News

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Photographic illustration: Yahoo News; photos: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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