Is A Police Presence In Florida Schools Solving Problems Or Creating Them?
Mass shootings in public schools spurred a response that includes increasing the number of officers on school campuses across the Sunshine State. Proponents argue that more uniformed bodies act as a deterrent to potential catastrophe, while those opposed to the dramatic intensification of a police presence believe it has detrimental effects on students.
A Sense of Safety
For many parents and students, having more police on school campuses provides a sense of security, particularly in view of fatal school attacks in recent months and years. But even short of such dire incidents, many believe that teachers shouldn’t be tasked with jobs like breaking up fights or intervening with incidents related to drugs or other criminal activity. Having officers present allows teachers to do what they’re there for: to teach.
The School-to-Prison Pipeline
While issues of violence and criminal activity in Florida schools is a reality, some argue that the solution lies in restorative justice programs, increasing the number of school counselors, and streamlining mental health services to students who need it. Nonetheless, according to a recent report by the ACLU, the police presence in schools has practically doubled in recent years. Likewise, the number of behavioral referrals to law enforcement went up, as cases related to tobacco and drugs, as well as intimidation and threats, made their way to law enforcement. School arrests jumped from 40-80 percent, depending on the school level, with middle and high schools seeing the most significant increases. That being said, there has been no indication that behavioral incidents changed in number due to the police presence on campus—only that legal consequences increased. Many worry that this early police interaction acts simply to get troubled kids into the school-to-prison pipeline earlier than ever. Instead of getting the help they need, kids are headed to the criminal justice system to deal with their issues.
Who is Most Impacted by Police Referrals in Schools?
Multiple studies have discovered that students with disabilities and, to a startling degree, those of color, are disproportionately referred to SRO’s (school resource officers). To be sure, schools serving disadvantaged populations—with large proportions of black and brown students– are assigned more police maintenance than wealthier and consequently whiter schools across the country.
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