Why School Cops Won’t Fix School Shootings
With the number of deadly school shootings on the rise in recent years, school administrators and lawmakers are actively seeking solutions to the problem of gun violence in schools. One of the more popular solutions is arming schools with police officers. According to this study, only 1% of schools in the United States had police officers on campus in 1975. In 2019 that number increased to around 42% of high schools and 24% of middle schools, yet school shootings remain a huge issue.
Because this is still such a recent method of gun violence prevention in schools, it is difficult to conclusively determine whether or not a police presence in schools is really helpful in solving the epidemic of school shootings. However, there is already evidence to suggest that although the presence of cops in schools may be reassuring and helpful in some ways, it is not an effective or appropriate solution to prevent school shootings. This article will explore some of the flaws in having police officers in schools and how it can actually do more harm than good for students.
Students are not treated (or arrested) equally
Black children are arrested more frequently (and in disproportion to their percentage of the total student population) than any other students. This could very likely be due to prejudices held by police officers, teachers, and administrators. Having police on campus could be more beneficial to non-black students, but harmful to black students due to increased arrest rates for non-violent offenses or for unarmed fights.
More arrests for lower offenses
According to a study from 2009, schools with cops on campus had a higher rate of arrests for lower-level offenses such as possession of alcohol, unarmed fights, and vandalism. In theory, it’s great that crime is being stopped, but this does not necessarily contribute to stopping gun violence and can having damaging lasting effects. A student with an arrest on record for a minor offense like vandalism may have a harder time finishing school and obtaining gainful employment as an adult.
Increased police brutality
This article from NPR illustrates the ways that having police officers present on school campuses increases police brutality, particularly towards students of color and in schools where a majority of the students are black. Students at these schools report that the only times they see police officers interacting with students is when students are being arrested or police are using stun guns or other violent methods of control over students. This increases the hostility between police officers and minority groups who historically have been targeted by police, and causes students to grow into adults who do not trust or respect the police force.
Normalizes violence and adds guns to schools
Police officers in schools are often armed, which only adds to the number of firearms on campus. Although it is true that these weapons are meant to be used in defense of school shootings, it still presents an opportunity for students to access a gun that they might not have otherwise. Police presence on campus also reinforces the idea that school is a dangerous place. Although it can be reassuring to some to have officers on campus at all times, other steps could be taken so that they are not needed in the first place.
Although there hasn’t been sufficient research conducted over time yet, there are clearly both advantages and disadvantages to having a police presence in schools. Ultimately, it appears so far that having cops on campus does not solve the epidemic of gun violence at schools. Lawmakers and educators need to look at other more effective solutions to prevent and stop school shootings.