Many large high schools and some schools for lower and middle school students employ either active duty police officers or special school security officers. Obviously these personnel cost the schools money. One would presume that the money would not be spent unless the administrators determined that the extra security was needed to prevent violence and aggression. Does the presence of a security force in a school, whether private or public, make kids feel more secure and behave more appropriately?
Clearly exceptions to the rule always get the attention of the media rather than the normal and customary every day occurrence. So, last August when a video was released by the American Civil Liberties Union showing a school resources officer handcuffing a whimpering 8-year-old special education student people were outraged. What could an 8-year-old do that would warrant such treatment? More recently videos of a high school student in South Carolina being whipped from her desk/chair and thrown on the floor because she did not comply with an order from a sheriff’s deputy assigned to the school became viral. The deputy was removed from his job although the sheriff said the deputy had a great record and was experienced. Turns out the “crime” committed by the girl was being disrespectful and using her cell phone in class.
Schools began incorporating a policing presence after high-profile instances of mass shootings in schools such as Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary. But there is an old saying. If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail. One can only wonder if you are a police officer or a school resource officer trained to perform disciplinary actions against people breaking the rules, do you tend to see lots of rule breaking? If you are a classroom teacher and you are confronted with a smart-mouthed teenager, how easy is it for you to call in the reinforcements? In fairness if you are a trained law enforcement person, school duty can get pretty boring. It is also not unusual for these altercations to lead to police arrest and the beginning of a juvenile police record.
Many years ago principals were allowed to paddle kids as part of disciplinary procedures. Mostly that practice has been outlawed. It is my view that we do not teach kids that violence is a bad thing by committing violence against them, whether by a paddling principal or by law enforcement personnel.
School is a place where children should be learning. The act of learning is itself a risk-taking behavior. If a person tries to learn there is always the risk of failing. Learning can only happen in an environment where a child feels safe. If school becomes a place where children see law enforcement as out to get them, what will that do to their attitude in the larger community. And if a school is not safe to live in, how will it be a place where it is safe to learn?