Cops in Schools
The evidence is clear: having police on school campuses creates more problems than it solves. This evidence has been provided by a detailed report from the Justice Policy Institute (JPI) called “Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools.”
The reported noted that between 1997 and 2007 the number of “school resource officers” (SRO’s) increased by 38%, largely as a result of zero tolerance policies enacted during this time. Paralleling this growth has been the increase of referrals to juvenile court for mostly minor offenses like disturbing the peace. Among the examples was a case of a girl arrested for swearing which caused a disturbance (during which time an SRO was called to the scene and promptly put the handcuffs on and hauled her to detention).
It is well know that the rate of serious crime by juveniles has declined significantly during the past 15 years or so; it has also declined dramatically on school campuses. The research cited by the JPI report confirms what many of us have been saying, namely, that the presence of SRO’s on the actual amount of serious crime is negligible. In fact, in most cases SRO’s have made matters much worse by sending growing numbers of kids to detention for behavior that years ago was handled informally. One study cited in the report found that in Clayton County, Georgia after installing SROs in schools, the number of referrals to juvenile court went from about 89 per year in the 1990s to 1,400 per year in 2004. Another study of 15 schools in the Southeast found that “schools with SROs had nearly five times the number of arrests for disorderly conduct as schools without an SRO, even when controlling for the level of economic disadvantage of the school.”
One report cited by the JPI study was done by the ACLU of New York. Called “Education Interrupted: The Growing Use of Suspensions in New York City’s Public Schools,” the ACLU found that:
· Whereas during the 1999-2000 school year one out of every 25 students was suspended, during the 2008-2009 school year the rate was one out of every 14;
· Between 2001 and 2010 the number of infractions listed in the schools’ discipline code increased by 49%; during the same time the number of zero tolerance violations went up by 200%;
· Not surprisingly black students were much more likely to be suspended for such violations.
The JPI study concluded by noting that schools with the lowest rate of victimization and bullying tend to be highly structured and highly supportive of students and what creates safe schools are not SRO’s but rather the “quality of relationships between students and staff and between staff and parents.”