North Texas Daily

Police officers need to be removed from schools

Police officers need to be removed from schools

Police officers need to be removed from schools
July 23
18:55 2020

As the tensions between minority communities and law enforcement escalate throughout the U.S., we must also push for the removal of officers in schools. Officers in schools are not contributing to creating a safe environment for students. In fact, the presence of officers contributes to more problems rather than safety on school grounds. 

The use of police in schools began due to the fear of desegregation that was present at the time. Thus, bringing about the first school resource officer, which was documented in Michigan in 1953. During the 1970s and 1980s, more districts began to increase their police presence in order to deter crime that was occurring in school property or that involved students. Fast forward to the present day, 67 percent of high school students, 45 percent of middle school students and 19 percent of elementary school students attend school with at least one police officer

These statistics are concerning as it has been proven that the presence of police officers contributes to disproportionately over-policing of minority students. This is a bigger issue in southern states in the U.S. as the majority of the demographic in this area consists of Black and Hispanic students. A 2013 study found that schools that have officers within them tend to record more weapon and drug crimes as well as non-serious violent offenses in comparison to those schools that do not have officers, according to the Urban Institute. As tensions with law enforcement and minorities continue, police in schools continue to contribute to the trauma that minority individuals face when it comes to dealing with law enforcement. 

Many officers who are employed at these schools have received little to no training when it comes to working with children and young adults. As a result, officers are less equipped and prepared on how to handle situations with students. This in turn leads to an increase in school-based arrests in which the vast majority include disruptive behavior or minor infractions. In Texas, Black girls are four to five times more likely to be arrested in comparison to white girls. This goes to show the amount of racial disparity in policing that occurs. 

Instead of school districts investing in hiring more officers, they should invest in hiring psychologists or counselors since these groups of professionals are more properly skilled in dealing with children and young adults. Federal data has shown that the crisis that schools are facing is not due to violence but a failure to address mental health issues among students and a failure to hire enough support staff. Many students today face enormous amounts of stress, anxiety and/or depression. If schools had more counselors, nurses, social workers or psychologists they would see more vast improvements among their student body than they will if they continue to invest in hiring more police officers to patrol the hallways. Police officers are trained to arrest and detain individuals not on how to deal with the mental traumas a student may be facing.

Many argue that police should be present on campuses due to protect students from mass shootings but in fact, there have been instances in which law enforcement did not prevent school shootings from occurring. This was the case in the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The officer at this school retreated during the shooting. There is also no data that demonstrates that police reduce the number of serious incidents like drug and weapon possession, assaults or threats on school grounds. 

School officers are also disproportionately targeting students with disabilities and making schools an unsafe environment for these students to attend. Black and Latino boys with disabilities make up for three percent of enrollment nationally but compromise 12 percent of all student arrests. 

With all this information that is now presented it is important to consider asking, why is there such heavy over-policing occurring among minorities and students with disabilities in schools when there is federal data that demonstrates that police presence doesn’t improve school safety? It is important to work on disbanding the school to prison pipeline in which so many students of color fall victim to and begin to be placed under a system that is not designed to help them.  

In order for schools to improve and create safer environments, law enforcement must be defunded and those funds must be invested in providing proper support staff that can help students cope with any mental health issues or traumas they may be facing. It does not make sense to arrest students over a fight when social skills and conflict resolution can be taught. Not only will this help schools that endure discipline problems diminish these issues but it will also help students have the proper tools on how to cope with problems beyond the classroom.

Featured Illustration: Srinidhi Shukla

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Eunice Hernandez

Eunice Hernandez

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