The past few months since the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School, there has been increased support from legislators and school officials to arm faculty members. Is bringing firearms back into our nation’s schools, following such a horrific act of gun violence a good idea? Will it make schools safer, or just that much more dangerous? What will be the short and long-term effects of these policies? Increased Police presence in our schools has an adverse impact on the learning environment. It creates a tense atmosphere in which educating students is no longer the priority, and where even the most minor violations of disciplinary code such as class disruption become legal matters, responded to and dealt with by uniformed and armed police officers.
A Washington school district’s discipline policies came under fire recently following an Everett middle school’s questionable handling of a cyberbullying incident.
Samantha Negrete, 14 of North Middle School in Everett was called into the vice principal’s office to assist with an investigation on cyberbullying between students at the school. The administrator ordered Negrete to open her personal Facebook page and show him posts. At the time, he did not allow her to log out of the page and did not contact the student’s parents.
The case is being evaluated by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), who have deemed the incident an invasion of the student’s privacy that should have been protected under both federal and state laws. The ACLU is making a case that the the student’s Facebook page was involuntarily and improperly searched, and demanding that the school district apologize to the student.
Many public school students, especially student-athletes in Maryland, have been coerced into divulging or providing administrators or coaches access to their private social media content.
This month, 7-year-old Josh Welch, a second-grader at Park Elementary School in Baltimore was suspended from school for two days after biting his Pop-Tart pastry into the shape of a gun. This event is only one of the most recent in an escalating trend of overreactions on the part of school administrators following the Dec. 14 school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
The second-grader, who was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), reportedly has a passion for his elementary school art classes and was attempting to sculpt his pastry into the shape of a mountain. However, a teacher noticed that the pastry resembled a firearm and reported the “incident.”
Baltimore’s highly regarded Annie E. Casey Foundation just released an exhaustive study of juvenile detention rates across the country. Since 1997, the overall rate of juvenile detention in Maryland has decreased by 46 percent according to the study. Unfortunately, over 7,000 underage youth sentenced as adults under state waiver/certification statutes, are serving hard time in adult prisons across the US. The Casey study also highlights the great disparity in juvenile detention among African American youth.