As talk of law enforcement reform continues to swirl in the aftermath of the Department of Justice's Ferguson report, some communities have quietly made progress in addressing how police interact with students. Traditionally, police stepped on school grounds to respond to emergencies, such as those involving threats or major acts of violence, or to provide security, such as at arrival and dismissal times and at special events. What's new is the growing trend of having police stationed in schools full-time. In other words, schools have become some officers' beat. And like traditional policing, many officers walk this beat armed.
The consequence has been the rise of the school-to-prison pipeline, a disturbing trend where police officers get involved in routine student conflicts and disciplinary matters that are not particularly dangerous or violent. The result is too often an escalation of the incident resulting in students' removal from school through arrest, citation, or fine.
Sometimes this leads students to disengage from school or drop out altogether, which also increases the likelihood that they'll have more interactions with the criminal justice system. As Michael Nash, presiding judge of Los Angeles' juvenile court, told the New York Times, "Once the kids get involved in the court system, it's a slippery slope downhill."
Not surprisingly, all students are not treated the same. "Beyond Zero Tolerance," The American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania's recent report, revealed the disproportionate punishment of students of color and students with disabilities, mimicking what happens on the streets outside the school's doors.
The good news is that communities around the country are beginning to reconsider how police are used in schools, as more and more students enter their schools free and leave in handcuffs. Typically policy changes come about in response to community concerns about outrageous and well-publicized incidents -- calling the police on a 5-year old for throwing a temper tantrum, an unlawful search of a student, the sexual harassment of a young woman by school security, or the use of a taser on a student who is not engaged in dangerously violent behavior.
To continuing reading about School Police and the School-to-Prison Pipeline click here: As Awareness of the School-to-Prison Pipeline Rises, Some Schools Rethink the Role of Police