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Don't defund all police, but keep
police out of schools. Kids will do better without them.
Education needs to shed school resource
officers and the criminalization of student misconduct. This would be an
investment in success for all kids.
Fox and Aviva M. Rich-Shea Opinion contributors
Published 5:00 a.m. ET Jun 12, 2020
"Defund the police" the latest
chant heard from the throngs of irate demonstrators in cities across
America, means very different things to different people. Obviously, there
are many tasks routine and emergency that unarmed civilians are poorly
equipped to shoulder, including traffic stops and domestic violence calls.
There is, however, at least one area where eliminating police involvement
has significant advantages without risking public safety.
been closed for months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. When they reopen in
the fall, let's leave the police, specifically school resource officers, out
of the picture.
Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler has already
announced his plan to drop the assignment of SROs, whose numbers and
presence mushroomed in the 1990s as part of the federal Community Oriented
Policing Services (COPS) initiative. More important, Wheeler's approach
makes sense, assuming that SROs are replaced with social workers and
guidance counselors who are better able to deal with the wide variety issues
that arise in schools. Plus, these professionals come at a lower price.
Schools are safe without police
Schools are safe,
safer in fact than they've been for decades, and not because of the presence
of an armed police officer in the hallways. Rather, schools provide
structure and supervision that many kids lack during their out-of-school
Although SROs may give parents some sense of comfort that their
children are protected while at school, students actually face certain
perils because of constant police presence. The well-traveled
school-to-prison pipeline has been documented by research in terms of
greater reliance on the justice system in response to student infractions,
especially for minority youngsters.
A school resource officer in Anderson,
California, walks a student back to class in 2013.
Andreas Fuhrmann , AP
The placement of tens of thousands of police officers in
public schools has resulted in the prosecution of normal childhood behavior.
Being arrested for disturbing assembly and fighting at school has supplanted
the opportunity for using these incidents as teachable moments of positive
socialization. The criminalization of student misconduct should give way to
informal alternatives, such as in-school detention for minor transgressions
and restorative justice for interpersonal conflict resolution.
Ex-cop, ex-FBI and black:
I understand the anger but don't
defund police. It could make things worse.
More generally, SROs limit
students from developing a strong relationship with the school staff by
acting as a disciplinary buffer zone. Learning appropriate interpersonal
behavior and respect for rules is an important aspect of a child's education
especially for those who do not learn critical social skills at home not an
opportunity to be targeted and tagged by police.Cops can
still have role in education
Rethinking the wisdom of having
officers assigned to schools does not mean that they have no place in the
educational process. School personnel are not trained to deal with serious
forms of misconduct, just as cops are not trained to deal with the
day-to-day issues of children. Police need to maintain a close working
relationship with schools, but not directly with the students.
may argue that the threat of serious violence in schools, including active
shooter events, necessitates having SROs ready to fight firepower with
firepower. After all, we are no longer dealing with the youth culture of the
1950s and 1960s, when a hallway rumble was the greatest peril.
Biden:We must urgently root out systemic racism, from policing to housing to
Removing SROs does not make students and faculty more
vulnerable. There are many more subtle ways that schools can protect
children and adults alike for instance, acoustic gunshot detectors to
improve police response in the unlikely event of attack, and building design
features that limit intruder access without relying on Officer Friendly, who
by virtue of his or her role and training responds to minor altercations and
rule violations in an overly punitive fashion.
Public education needs
to shed SROs, just as many schools have moved away from punitive
zero-tolerance policies. This would be a concrete step toward investing in
the future success of all children.
Despite the justifiable anger of
protesters directed squarely at the police, we must avoid the prospect of
having crime victims suffer or die needlessly because of limited police
resources and slowed 911 response times. We must heed the old adage about
tossing babies out with blue bath water. But we should trim police staffing
levels by reassigning certain activities to better-qualified specialists,
who are not furnished with a gun and badge.James Alan Fox is the
Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at
Northeastern University and a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors.
Follow him on Twitter: @jamesalanfox. Aviva M. Rich-Shea is chair of the
Criminal Justice Department at Massasoit Community College.