School-to-prison pipeline: Do we want to bring guns back into our schools?
In January, the Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC), released a comprehensive report and petition entitled, “Police in Schools are not the answer to the Newtown Shooting.” DSC is a non-profit dedicated to protecting students’ rights in schools and halting what’s known as the School-to-Prison Pipeline – the emerging trend of juvenile incarceration as a result of disruption to education stemming from Zero-Tolerance disciplinary policies.
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.
The report explains the recent push, immediately following the school shootings at Newtown, CT to arm faculty in schools and details the experiences of many school districts that introduced armed police officers to their secondary schools. New York City’s public schools were among the first to employ armed police liaisons for school security. Their experience was overwhelmingly negative; Mayor Bloomberg commented that it adversely affects the learning climate and turns schools into “prisons”.
Other school districts that implemented these measures experienced dramatic increases in police involvement in cases minor infractions, such as disruptive behaviors and little to no change in police involvement in cases of serious infractions, such as drug-related or violent incidents.
Studies have shown that disruption of education and high levels of suspensions and expulsions, all hallmarks of this newest brand of Zero-Tolerance, positively correlate to high levels of incarceration later on in life. The use of armed police officers in public schools engenders a climate detrimental to education, perpetuates this backward and dated philosophy on discipline and ultimately can ruin the bright futures of the young people in our nation’s schools.
The DSC has organized the campaign “You Can’t Build Peace with a Piece” to include several rallies and teach-ins this coming month around the country to raise awareness of the issue of police presence in schools perpetuating the “School-to-Prison Pipeline”.
This campaign is in support of their petition to President Obama and the U.S. Congress to look into positive alternatives to having armed police officers in schools.
This post was written by Patrick Hoover, Esq.