The Debate Over Police Presence In Schools: Providing Both Safety & Equity
Should the school district in the Las Vegas vicinity disband their police department? Some student activists say that police target black and brown students, giving them records for minor offenses that wind up positioning them for a spot in the school-to-prison pipeline.
Kids Don’t Feel Safe
The fact is 40 percent of students surveyed report feeling unsafe when police are present at school. They say police watch them and wait for them to screw up. That makes it tough to learn. More than half of kids in Clark County say they know of someone or have themselves experienced a negative interaction with school police. For students of color that number rises to over 60 percent. According to the students, witnessing or experiencing harassment, verbal abuse, and even physical interactions involving things like pepper spray make having police in schools a bad thing. Instead, they believe investments in restorative justice programs, mental health workers, and counselors is a better way to go.
A Contrasting View
On the other hand, there are plenty of students and parents who believe a police presence is necessary to provide safety in schools. They don’t think teachers should be tasked with breaking up fights and dealing with other criminal issues related to weapons or drugs and the like. Genuine fears that some students have about being targeted need to be dealt with, and officers should develop outreach programs for that purpose–but school safety should not be compromised under any circumstances.
Violence in Nevada Schools
According to research by UNLV, Nevada schools have more than their fair share of violence. 2018 statistics reveal the following:
- Nearly 12,000 violent incidents in schools;
- Almost 900 violent acts against teachers and staff;
- Over 1,000 confiscations of weapons;
- An uptick in bullying.
Recommendations from UNLV
Instead of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, researchers believe thoughtful integration of security measures, including proper training of armed officers, is the answer to school violence. A robust security program might include:
- Eliminating zero tolerance policies that demand automatic expulsion in favor of phased consequences for students who misbehave;
- Developing culturally responsive programming to address student needs and behaviors as a preventative measure;
- Providing a support network for students with severe behavior issues;
- Creating School Safety Teams (SST’s) to address incidents as needed.
Equity and Justice – A Must in Schools
The issues surrounding school violence are not simple, and require a complex, multifaceted response. Currently, data indicate that having a police presence in schools is a predictor of greater police referrals for low-level offenses, particularly for students of color. This has a negative impact on the trajectory of students’ lives, often resulting in incarceration. At the same time, many have legitimate concerns about the increase of violence in schools and the unreasonable expectations on teachers to address such issues single-handedly. At this time, the urgency to create just, equitable management systems within schools has emerged and must be addressed. If you find that your child has been subjected to racial profiling or targeting by school police, and you fear the school-to-prison pipeline is in your child’s future, the Las Vegas criminal lawyers at Lobo Law can help. Contact us today for a confidential consultation in our office.