The presence of an armed officer changes the values taught and the atmosphere at school. At such a young age, students are learning to fear the police.
LOS ANGELES, CA — I am a high school student in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD). Even back in middle school, I have always been aware of police on my school campus. The first thing I notice when I see one patrolling is the hand gun strapped to their hip. Students on my high school campus are quite used to there being an officer, but you can tell that no one wants to get too close to them. Every year there is always some poor kid who gets pulled out of class in the middle of a lesson and has to be escorted to the office by one of the policemen.
I feel sorry for my cousin who just started high school because security is becoming tighter with the new “safe campus campaign” and it is becoming more like a prison every year. Today other schools across the U.S. are also increasing their security with police men patrolling the halls, drug sniffing dogs checking backpacks, chain link fences caging in students while metal detectors line the entrance. In 1996 there were 9600 school resource officers (SRO’s.) Today there are 170,000. Why has it become this way?
The creation of public schools was fueled by industry. Workers needed to learn basic skills to get the job done. With the growing mechanization of labor, industry is becoming less dependent on workers and more on robots to complete their standard procedures. Now that industry has less of a need for workers, there is beginning to be a loss of hope for these student’s futures.
With the culture of fear constantly being fueled by school shootings and drive-bys, SRO’s are the fastest growing segment of law enforcement. Schools are fast becoming a place of punishment— they are the new repressive, holding centers for youth.
Schools allowing police to work in schools is a mistake. With police on campus, kids can be sent straight from a classroom to jail. It’s called the “school to prison pipeline.” With armed officers there, any student could be shot given the right excuse. The presence of an armed officer changes the values taught and the atmosphere at school. At such a young age students, are learning to fear the police.
What kind of system promotes the presence of armed police in schools in the first place? Instead of the $59 million the LAUSD spends on its annual police budget (LA Times, Nov. 30,2015), this money could be spent for more counselors, social workers and student support staff.
In a society of such obvious abundance, a vision is possible that values students and their contributions for a just and peaceful world.
Originally posted on The People’s Tribune. Reprinted with permission.
By Ezra Messer and Chris Venn
Photo credit: Getty Images