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Posted: June 1st, 2022
Would Requiring all Schools to Have a Police Officer in Them Make our Schools Safer
My topic is would requiring schools to have a police officer in them make our schools safer from mass shootings and violence
Page Count: Ten (not counting Title, Abstract, and Reference Pages
Formatting: 12 point font, double-spaced, one inch margins on all sides
Style Format: APA
Citation Format: APA In-text and reference list
Number of Credible Sources: 4-5
Schools remain to be an important sector of life for most Americans. This is a place where the most vulnerable members of their society (the children) go in order to develop and acquire knowledge in order to create a better future for the country. Keeping schools’ safety standards high remains to be a contentious issue within the American social fabric. Majorly, schools across the country do not have an effective safety management and rely on a variety of agencies to ensure safety. These agencies are controlled by a variety of authorities that are in turn overseen by different branches of government from the local municipalities right up to the state and federal levels. As such, when mass shootings occur, they are usually tackled with a great sense of shock within the larger society. Mass shootings are preceded by reignition of old debates that touch on civil liberties which generally revolve around the first and second amendments. The moral panic that result from the dimensions of mass shooting in most American schools debate see a variety of angles that divide the public and as such, more often than not, remedy to school shooting become bipartisan and as such never addressed. As such policy windows (this are periods after traumatic occurrences that embody people to seek radical change in a measure to see the repeat not taking place (Anderson, 2018)) have seen police being installed in sections of schools across the country. One key solution that has been proposed to cater for the reduction of school shootings in an effort to make American schools safer is the creation of school based- police department. Police department within schools have been sighted by a fraction of the population, as the third option in the gun debate debacle (between provision of guns and training to teachers or the eradication of gun from the society) that can be effective in dealing with mass shootings in schools and make schools in America safer. This research highlights that while police officers in schools create the illusion of safety by creating a sense of comfort for all stake holders, being readily available in case if emergencies, and creating social awareness into the issue of gun debate their presence may not be helpful. Police officers are prone to human error and have a variety of biases as such making their role indifferent as they critically extends civil rights debates into the corridors of schools. Additionally, through research this paper establishes that police presence in the past has not really reduced the number of casualties as such does not make the schools any safer.
It becomes important to contextualize school shootings in the United States and the role of the data on police reaction and presence in schools in creating the subsequent arguments in the paper. Balko (2018) gathers that in the last two decades up to 2018 there have been 22 school shooting. This make schools the safest places to be in America. He identifies that of the 133,000 public and private schools in America a school shooting in any particular school can only occur every 150,000 years based on the ratio of mass shootings from 1990 to 2018 against the number of schools. In this regards, Balko (2018) implies that since school shootings are so rare there is no way a person can gather a sample size large enough to draw clear and precise conclusions on the role of the police. Rather it would be essential to argue based on the one or two events per year to draw a vague conclusion in support of the thesis.
Indeed, the role of the police officers are a great reprieve to the decades long stalemate on gun ownership and gun violence in America. But this is just about where their importance comes to an end. The School Resource Officer or the SROs are stated to have not caused significant change in making the schools a safer zone than they were previously thought and continually implied to be doing. Taking a look at two critical examples, in the Parkland shooting, Scot Peterson who was a former member of the school’s SRO was pictured doing nothing to stop Parkland gun man advances in what is now regarded as one of the worst school shooting in the American history. Chavez (2019) cites a variety of media reports identifying that in the ongoing shooting spree, Peterson who had a bulletproof vest did nothing with his weapon, but hid and was pictured on security cameras often pointing his gun and doing nothing while teachers and other staff members did all the work in protecting kids.
While his case is just one of the many cases of school shooting, it is widely cited as a indicator as to police official’s inadequacy in quelling surprise violence breakouts in schools setting. Another shooting in Santa Fe High, Houston identifies that a despite the presence of the retired Houston Police officer John Barnes, like the Parkland shooting where 17 students were killed, 10 people were students were brutally murdered (Andone and Allen, 2018). This two cases acts as an important case study to the devalue that human error plays in mass shootings. Balko (2018) identifies that similar to the first two incidents in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting, the SRO who was present during the whole shooting spree did not even once discharge his weapon. A clear pattern that develops with this regard is the fact that police officer’s role in school mass shooting are redundant as they continually do not play a role in slowing down the mass murderer. On the other hand, there is an important record that has been observed with regard to police presence. Balko (2018) identifies that in the same schools nonviolence records remain at an all time high because the presence of the officers sees more crimes get reported. This conclusion ushers in a new perspective on why policing serves to create anxiety and make the school less safe for students.
SROs in school have been cited to act in bias that overtime has been observed to focus mainly on racial differences. This incidentally is slowly pushing the civil rights issues that are seen in the streets of America into the classroom corrupting the climate of learning. Anderson (2018) identifies that over the years’ countless videos across the country have been recorded of SROs physically abusing minors some of which have led to lawsuits and scarred minors. An example of such incidents can be one in Round Rock High, 2015 in which Hughes an African American high school goer in the area was physically assaulted by a police officer after they were found having an argument with a friend over a pair of googles. Solomon (2015) identifies that the officers action was fashionably in line with their excessive use of force when interacting with African American, reiterating that the officers within school premises do were de facto disciplinarians and do not wield the power that they have outside of school. In the story one key theme was identified, the principal of the school was the one that initiated a call for the intervention of the officers to handle the matter. Hersh, Stockton and Pisetzner (2019) identify that in Travis County Juvenile Probation department, data from SROs comparing Black Student Population Vs Referrals to law enforcement show that of the 9% black student population, there was a 37% recorded referral to the law enforcement. This is a matter that the department acknowledged to be alarming and potentially creating anxiety and indicating an increased source of discrimination for most minority community students within America.
SROs are propagating racial inequalities and differences in schools categorically making more and more minority student feel unsafe. Blad and Harwin (2017) identify that of the 39% enrollment rates among African Americans in Virginia schools, black referral to law enforcement was at an all time high of 75%, in Louisiana it compared 40% to 69% respectively. This is a matter that was widespread across other ethnic groups across the country. Blad and Harwin (2017) identify that of the 8% native American enrollment, there was a recorded 23% arrestment rate, and in Connecticut 25% Hispanic enrollment was meted with a 35% arrest rate. There was additionally a high arrest percentage rate and disproportional response to conflict by police officers reported nationwide. Blad and Harwin (2017) point out that 8000 schools in 2013-14 totaled 70,000 arrests and black students were more than likely to be attending a school where the arrests were taking place.
Lack of awareness and show of tolerance by most police officers, saw a big percentage of student of color continually presented with discrimination than in turn is recorded to make them feel less free. Blad and Harwin (2017) identify the negative impacts of this actions stating that official presence of officers in black and brown communities see them criminalize behavior that they would not necessarily criminalize in other areas. This categorically allows more and more black students to be presented with the realities of life and the perpetual state of discrimination in schools, at their communities and generally all public places, playing a major hindrance. Apart from physical abuse, the mental and psychological toll of most of this officer’s actions creates a climate of suppression where they become less than likely to express themselves and their views. This plays negatively in allowing them to succeed as it only serves to perpetuate the kind of marginalization in their community that allows one racial group to scale up the social ladder and limits social mobility for the other. Howard (2017) argues that the indirect increase in SROs within the school premises sees a direct increase in intolerance policies as the officers are not really made aware of their role. Conclusively racially discriminatory stances accelerated in schools due to the introduction of SROs. This creates a space of fear rather than freedom of expression for majority of the students.
The use of police service creates a great gap of information sharing and communication of knowledge necessary for other stakeholder e.g. Parents, creating greater disparity. Police arguably have been entitled to discretion. Police maintain greater autonomy from the school and have an implied authority that seeks to create a bridge between their de-facto role and their functions as disciplinarians in school. Lack of adequate guideline on the role of police service and laxity in schools which is identified to be continually relying on police for even the most basic disagreements in students allows police officers to abuse their power. Lee (2015) identifies that police continually use unconventional methods (to handle minors many of them black students) such as choke hold and guns, that have been recorded to kill at least one student and saw the officer walk free. This is a matter that has been a key point of debate for most parents who feel that the intervention by police is creating more disturbance than solutions. In the wake of gross application of authorities police departments in conjunction with schools have been identified to be not cooperative with parents as was the case in Round City, they do not report on the incidents and the incidents are increasingly vague (Jones, 2018). Officers do not maintain a difference between how they treat minors and older citizens often going overboard in the event that the student is from another race that is not white.
In Round Rock parents identified the role of the police to be increasingly alarming as it is not adequately catered in most formal forums. Police have greater autonomy at the discretion of school officials who often do not consider the ramifications before placing referrals to the police for help indiscriminately. This is shown to increase the level of distress among nonwhite students especially in poor neighborhoods making the zones unsafe than they should be. This is backed up by data that shows the direct result of SROs is increased criminal charges for students in school to crimes that would be otherwise overlooked in regions of a dominant white population (Lind, 2015). In this regard, the police play the role of converting schools to jails disallowing students from learning on expression as they continually inflict the highest possible punishment on even the smallest disagreement. Balko (2018) identifies that increasingly police officer’s presence has seen criminalizing of typical youth behavior in places meant to be safe “havens”. Children are beginning to be charged with crimes that would typically be viewed as teenager mischief and the process of growing in other territories. Some of the charges cited include a student in his early teens being criminally charged with assault and battery with weapon for throwing a baby carrot at her teacher, kicking trashcans, sagging trousers at school and throwing airplane totaling 233,000 referrals to law enforcement in 2013-14 (Balko, 2018). This speaks to the utter ridiculousness of the charges that mostly are racially biased. It also identifies to the irrationality and corrupt nature of law enforcement in schools. It recognizes their total disregard of conduct around minors deeply rooted in racial imbalance within the American society.
School academic and extra curricular performance were defined to be the highest predictors of potential mass school shooting in the United States. Additionally, school performance indicators were guided by social economic variations across the society. In higher income areas, schools are described to tend to perform generally better than those in lower income areas. Research identifies that police assignment to schools are heavily biased and do not consider the dangers of mass violence from the students but rather the surrounding socio-economic value system of the region in which the school is located (Anderson, 2018). Police are more than likely to be sent to schools where socio-economic levels are lower than the country’s average. This is great as it is able to curb most violent activities within the school, but at the same time, it only perpetuates societal discrimination since most of the schools are only located in minority communities. This also happens to be the regions that are mostly populated by people of color and continually face high levels of crime (Anderson, 2018). As such, in indiscriminate assignment of police to schools in regions where there is a high threat of potential shooting only works to stress the students even more as the police do not really serve to protect the students rather to victimize them by focusing on disciplining the small acts of teenage mischief. As it corrupts their free space and continually promotes a restrictive environment for their expression. Anderson (2018) identifies through empirical research that high performing schools which underperform and/ or constantly record growth in enrollment continually record a higher safety issues. In schools where the performance of the student is prioritized there is a general recorded low criminality. On the contrary Anderson (2018) identifies that in terms of professionalism police conduct their jobs as per their employment requirements and often maintain high standards of discipline which is identified to be what is essentially the course of anxiety in the schools.
The decision to install more police officers in schools can be regarded as a kneejerk reaction to mass shooting. Factors such as the lack of compulsion in the society to define the roles of the gun in the American society, has been identified to be key in propagating the foundation of SROs within schools. The police are a short term solution to a potentially long lasting debate about guns. The police in most areas present an illusion of readiness to tackle mass shootings, provide short term social comfort to affected communities and maintain a general sense of awareness by the authorities to the problem amidst a stalemate. On the ground, police presence is working to make schools less safe. Observation identifies that of the most tragic mass shooting including the Parklands shooting, the police were heavily inept in handling the mass shooter. Police presence did not affect the outcome of the events mostly because they failed to act in surprise of the even. On the other hand, when they acted to stop the mass shooter like in the Santa Fe High school, retired SRO Barnes was critically shot and as a result was not able to maintain an upper hand. Additionally, police maintain heavy biasness towards students from minority communities. African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans were recorded to have witnessed higher levels of irrational confrontation and referral to police than other communities. This increased their levels of freedom in school and critically jibed at their sense of safety. As it serves to change their meaning of reality having being suppressed by police from all fronts. Police presence in school did not adequately consider the role of the parents and police autonomy is susceptible to corruption and continued harassment of minors and students in general. This results in less safety for students and remains to be redundant in this regard.
Anderson, K. A. (2018). Does more policing make middle schools safer? Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brown-center-chalkboard/2018/11/08/does-more-policing-make-middle-schools-safer/
Andone,, D., & Allen, K. (2018). Alleged shooter at Texas high school spared people he liked, court document says. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2018/05/18/us/texas-school-shooting/index.html
Balko, R. (2018). Putting more cops in schools won’t make schools safer, and it will likely inflict a lot of harm. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2018/02/22/putting-more-cops-in-schools-wont-make-schools-safer-and-it-will-likely-inflict-a-lot-of-harm/
Blad, & Harwin. (2017). Analysis reveals racial disparities in school arrests. Retrieved from https://www.pbs.org/newshour/education/analysis-reveals-racial-disparities-school-arrests
Chavez, N. (2019). This is what Scot Peterson did during the Parkland school shooting. Retrieved from https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/04/us/parkland-scot-peterson-actions/index.html
Hersh, Stockton, & Pisetzner. (2019). This Texas school district is considering setting up its own police force. Over 200 others already have. Retrieved from https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/mbz39x/this-texas-school-district-is-considering-setting-up-its-own-police-force-over-200-others-already-have
Howard, T. (2017). Why Are We Criminalizing Black Students? Retrieved from https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2017/03/22/why-are-we-criminalizing-black-students.html
Jones, D. (2018, December 4). Parents Say They Want More Input In Creating A Police Force For Round Rock ISD. Retrieved from https://www.kut.org/post/parents-say-they-want-more-input-creating-police-force-round-rock-isd
Lee, J. (2017). Chokeholds, brain injuries, beatings: Here’s what happens when school cops go bad. Retrieved from https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/07/police-school-resource-officers-k-12-misconduct-violence/
Lind, D. (2015). Why having police in schools is a problem, in 3 charts. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/2015/10/28/9626820/police-school-resource-officers
Solomon, D. (2015). Round Rock High School Video Sparks A Familiar Debate. Retrieved from https://www.texasmonthly.com/the-daily-post/round-rock-high-school-video-sparks-a-familiar-debate/
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