The current unrest has the left trotting out its tired arguments to take advantage of the crisis. The wave of anti-police sentiment has some leftist educators argue against stationing police officers in schools.
Often referred to as “school resource officers” (SRO), they provide three functions. They educate students about the law. They serve as informal counselors to students, and they enforce the law within the school setting.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, forty-four percent of all public schools have an SRO, about evenly divided between full- and part-time posts. The number of high schools is far higher. Sixty-nine percent of High Schools have SROs; over two-thirds of them are full time.
An Anti-Police Mentality
A June 26, 2020 article in the professional publication Education Week carries the headline, “More School Districts Sever Ties with Police. Will Others Follow?” It told of several school districts (St. Paul, Minnesota; Seattle, Washington; and Oakland, San Francisco, and San Jose, California) that voted to “suspend or dismantle school policing programs.” Another article from the same publication shows demonstrations against SROs in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles.
Police officers in any setting make the left cringe. There is an apparent contradiction in their thinking on the issue. On the one hand, they favor socialist programs that enhance the power and authority of government. At the same time, they view the embodiment of that power – the police officer – as a kind of “jack-booted thug” insistent on taking their freedom.
Separating the leaders of leftist movements from their ill-informed followers resolves the confusion. Socialists and communists see the policeman as a symbol of the moral order they wish to overthrow. Once in control, they use the State’s power to impose their tyranny and stamp out society’s pre-existing rules and customs.
An Organized Movement
One organization celebrating the removal of police is The Advancement Project. Its executive director, Judith Browne Diani, is quoted in the Education Week article referred to above. “I’m ecstatic. I’ve been crying for days now, tears of joy as we see the country moving in this discussion around defund the police, young people, sometimes younger than high school, are finding their voice in this moment and telling their stories.”
The Advancement Project’s report, We Came to Learn: A Call to Action for Police-Free Schools, sounds all the usual alarms indicating a liberal agenda. “For many Black and Brown youth, the presence of police in their schools disrupts their learning environments. There is a culture clash between law enforcement and the learning environment: police enforce criminal laws, while schools are supposed to nurture students.”
We Came to Learn then summons the standard leftist litany of complaints. “We discuss the documented harms of school policing, including the disparate impact that policing has on students of color, students with disabilities, and students who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex asexual (LGBTQIA).
The report’s arguments are not new. We Came to Learn echoes a 2011 report by an organization called the Justice Policy Institute. That report, Education Under Arrest, begins with the following:
“Fueled by increasingly punitive approaches to student behavior such as ‘zero tolerance policies,’ the past 20 years have seen an expansion in the presence of law enforcement, including school resource officers (SROs), in schools…. Some cities, like New York City, employ more officers in schools than many small cities’ entire police force…. [D]istricts from around the country have found that youth are being referred to the justice system at increased rates and for minor offenses like disorderly conduct.”
The report blames police presence for several harms, including arrests, disruption of “the educational process” and “alienation from school.” These, in turn, leads to those students “becoming involved with the justice system.”
Both The Advancement Project and the Justice Policy Institute both assume that the police cause the problems.
Those who learned about human nature outside the immoral hothouse atmosphere of the modern university know better. The students who most resent the police’s presence are the most inclined to commit illegal, immoral or disruptive acts. That inclination does not rise from the police, but r from chaotic home lives, gang membership or sinful human nature.
The Contrary Position
Mo Canady is the executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO). On June 5, 2020, he released a statement about the unrest. “We are, of course, dismayed to learn that some school systems have recently discontinued or considered discontinuing their SRO programs… Such well-implemented programs can help communities bridge the gap between law enforcement and youth, building positive relationships that can last lifetimes, while helping to protect schools from a wide variety of threats. In addition, they can do so while reducing referrals of students to the juvenile justice system.”
NASRO released To Protect and Educate: The School Resource Officer and the Prevention of Violence in Schools in 2012. It counters the assertions in Education Under Arrest. “As SRO programs came to prominence in the early 2000s, juvenile arrests declined 17% across-the-board between 2000–2009 (the most recent year for which data was available). The violent-crime index fell 13% and the property-crime index fell 19% during this period. And other assaults, vandalism, weapons, drug, DUI, and curfew and loitering offenses all fell as well. In 2011, incidences of school-associated deaths, violence, nonfatal victimizations, and theft all continued their downward trend that began in 1992.”
Indeed the numbers are so impressive that the Justice Policy Institute used the same figures to prove that SRO’s are unneeded.
What do the Teachers Say?
Education Week surveyed 1,150 teachers, principals, and district leaders. The results broadly support NASRO’s position.
The publication grouped those findings into five general statements.
1. Educators Are More Likely Than the General Population to Voice Support for the Black Lives Matter Movement.
There is much confusion about the nature of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Most Americans confuse the movement as an extension of the civil rights movement that seeks equal treatment under the law. However, that is a very long way from supporting the radical agendas vocalized by those who claim to be Black Lives Matters leaders.
2. Some Black Lives Matter Activists Say Armed Police Should Be Removed From Schools. Educators Disagree.
3. Most Educators Support Police Because They Want Protection Against Outsiders, Shootings. But Nearly 1 in 3 Want Protection Against Students.
4. Despite Evidence to the Contrary, Educators Believe That School Police Officers Treat Students of Color Fairly.
This conclusion shows that SROs do contribute to school safety since ninety-one percent of respondents agreed.
5. Educators Are Most Likely to Attribute Black/White Student Discipline Disparities to Discrimination.
This statement appears to contradict the fourth conclusion. However, SROs do not make disciplinary decisions unless the student broke the law. School administrators do make these decisions.
Resisting the Media Narrative
The anti-police protesters are the darlings of the media. They get the lion’s share of the nation’s attention. Their outrages make news and disorder. The media do a great disservice to America when they devote thousands of hours of air time and barrels of ink to promote this leftist position.
These opinions are not revealed truth. When it comes to police presence in the schools, Americans should go to those who know best and not leftist reporters. Those who are in the best position to know about the subject, support the presence of police in the schools. Voters, taxpayers, and especially parents should keep a close eye on their school boards’ actions in this critical area. It takes courage to speak out in favor of the police in the current atmosphere.
Real community leaders – rather than feckless bureaucrats and think tank liberals – need to make their voices heard. America’s children’s futures may depend on it.