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Security Measures Increase Flow of School to Prison Pipeline

by Michael Higham, published

school to prison pipeline and safety Brandon Bourdages /

Students who follow rules can still feel the tension of police officers patrolling the school halls. Tension depends upon the role of the campus officer, however.

Recent increases in school police could have detrimental impacts on student development. What's known as the school-to-prison pipeline results from ineffective disciplinary practices. Share the news: Tweet

The school-to-prison pipeline is shown to disproportionately affect minority students. Officers on campus who enforce rules such as student ID, dress code, and student conduct sometimes have the discretion on disciplinary measures. Punishments can be punitive in nature and instead exacerbate, not change, misbehavior.

There have been cases where punishment for misconduct unnecessarily placed students in the criminal justice system. In 2011, 10,200 Los Angeles students were given tickets for misconduct that arguably could have been left to school officials to handle.

The issue of school safety hasn't left the public dialogue since December's Sandy Hook tragedy. Many local and state governments began taking action to increase police presence at schools.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, two Mississippi bills have been backed by National Rifle Association representatives. One bill would give the state $7.5 million for school security to grant to local schools. Matching funds of $10,000 would be required. Tweet it: Tweet

The Mississippi House passed another bill allowing designated school employees to carry concealed firearms. The bill is up for debate in the State Senate.

Indiana is considering a measure to offer $10 million in grants for school police. Alabama could create a lottery to provide $20 million for law enforcement in all its schools.

Education Week quoted Executive Director Maurice Canady of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), highlighting the dynamic of on-campus officers:

"You have to know this officer that you're placing into this school environment. The wrong person in there—they can really do a lot of damage, reflect poorly on your department, and cause the whole community to say, 'We don't want law enforcement in schools.'" Tweet quote: Tweet

NASRO is in favor of placing more officers on campuses, but is opposed to arming school employees.

San Diego Unified Schools' Police Services was contacted for comment. The department stated that its numbers and approach have not changed in reaction to the Sandy Hook tragedy. It continues to operate with training specifically for schools.

Last week, IVN contributor Chad Phillips proposed three ways schools can improve security without creating a tense environment.

An increase in law enforcement presence might be the solution to school security in the eyes of some lawmakers. However, all stakeholders must be mindful of how the presence affects student development. It may not be the best course of action if officers are placed to enforce school rules.

The issue isn't as simple as more or less campus police. An on-campus officer's role is important. If a school is seeking to increase its campus police services, creating a supporting member of the school should be a priority. In the case of an emergency, however, campus officers would be ready to act.

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