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  • Writer's pictureJoanne Jacobs

School police: Do they make students safer?

In response to the shooting of 19 children and two adults, Uvalde, Texas school officials want to hire more police officers, writs Robby Soave in Reason.

Nineteen police officers were at the school quickly, he points out. “Robb Elementary didn’t need additional cops, it needed the cops on hand to actually do their jobs.”

School leaders across the country are trying strengthen safety measures, reports Eesha Pendharkar in Education Week. Should they add or bring back police officers to protect students and teachers?

She talked to black and Hispanic parents about the risks and benefits of school resource officers.

Four Black parents told Education Week that the presence of police in schools concerned them because they feared their kids would be at the very least, stressed out and anxious around police or, in the worst case scenario, criminalized at school. However, two Latino parents offered a different take on beefing up the police presence at school. They said that they believed the officers would add to overall student safety, and they did not worry about their children being targeted or profiled by police. All the parents, however, agreed on one point: More mental health supports for students would benefit their kids and overall be effective in helping to prevent violence at school.

“School police do not keep students safe. They do not prevent or end school based shootings,” said Ashley Sawyer, senior staff attorney at Advancement Project, a national civil-rights organization, at a post-Uvalde press conference. What works is “building a positive school climate and investing robustly in the types of supports that young people need in order to feel safe, whole, affirmed and supported in their school environment.”

A 2021 study found that school resource officers (SROs) “reduce some forms of violence in schools, but do not prevent school shootings or gun-related incidents.”

University of Albany researchers found that SROs “intensify the use of suspensions, expulsions, police referrals and arrests” with Black students more than twice as likely to face discipline.

Khulia Pringle, a Black parent and activist in Minneapolis-St. Paul, believes “cops have no business in schools.”

 “They’re part of the school-to-prison pipeline when it comes to Black and brown children. They don’t make Black and brown children feel safe,” she said. “A lot of the time, Black and brown children are criminalized for developmentally appropriate things, things that the school can handle.”

Other parents of color want police officers on campus, writes Prendhakar.

Carlos Rivera, a Latino parent from Columbus, Ohio, said he plans to go to his local school board meeting next year, when his kids will start middle school in Franklin County, to ask for increased police presence in schools, as well as more training for police officers to handle classroom conflict and other issues that commonly arise at schools, such as fights between students.

“I just want my kids in a safe place,” said Rivera.

There’s been a surge in fighting and other violence in schools across the country, especially those that were closed the longest. “Sixty percent of people working in schools, including educators and bus drivers, have experienced physical or verbal aggression from students during the pandemic, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association,” reports Zoe Bernard in the Washington Post. “Additionally, there’s been a significant increase in the number of students showing up to campuses with guns: 249 incidents were reported in 2021 as compared to 112 in 2019.”

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