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Opinion: In Schools With High Police Presence, Confusion as to Whether Principal or Officer in Charge

Opinion: In Schools with High Police Presence, Confusion as to Whether Principal or Officer in Charge

According to The Economist, America’s schools are relying too much on police presence to handle disciplinary problems in difficult schools, causing minorities to suffer the most while taking away important power from the school’s administration.

Though state data that would help articulate how many schools rely on police presence isn’t there, The Economist argues that “[m]ost American public high schools now have a permanent police presence.”

This phenomenon, the article says, does a disservice to minorities the schools serve.

Of 260,000 students referred to the police in the 2011-2012 schoolyear, 27% were black, though blacks represented only 16% of the student population. And those who become entangled in the justice system are likely to remain so; the opening of a juvenile criminal record—which may not be scrubbed clean until the age of 21—is an augury of further arrests, further convictions and eventual imprisonment, a spiral known to researchers as the 'school-to-prison pipeline.’

One of the bigger problems of a heavily-relied-on police presence in schools, too, the article says, is that it becomes difficult to tell who is in charge.

"Sometimes, as in Houston, the cops answer to the school board, sometimes, as in New York, only to the police chief; often the balance of power is contested in an ill-tempered battle between principals and police,” the article said.

That’s not to say that all police presence in schools are ineffective and Draconian and that all schools are left in the dark about possible reform.

In several large school districts across the country, specifically Houston and Philadelphia, police chiefs have been forced to act constructively after the " district’s juvenile arrest record was highlighted by NGOs.”

This has lead to positive things such as raising “the qualifying age of some offences and, in effect, decriminalised relatively trifling ones, such as rowdiness aboard buses.”

Indeed, many schools are not blind to the problem of over-punishing for non-violent offenses. Many schools, especially this past year, are turning to methods of restorative justice to ensure that students- even those who sometimes misbehave- don’t get left behind.

Read the full story.

Article by Nicole Gorman, Education World Contributor


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