Ever since the police killing of George Floyd, awareness has been raised about defunding police, including school police.
School districts in Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle declared that they will be removing officers from their schools, and making campuses a safe place again. While that is a wonderful thing, more work needs to be done before every single student across the U.S can confidently call their school a safe place.
Having police officers on campus is an insufficient way of protecting students.
According to the New York Times, many teachers, students and school officials believe that having police on campus is a danger to students and with good reason. There have been instances where on-campus officers have assaulted students, like this instance in the Los Angeles Unified School District at Fremont High School in 2019, where police went to unnecessary means to break up a fight by using pepper spray on students.
A 2015 incident at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina was captured on video and went viral. In the footage, an officer flipped a student’s desk over and dragged her to the floor. It’s clear that the only thing police accomplish on campus is scaring students, rather than actually keep them safe.
Recently, students and community organizers in the LAUSD have been standing up and voicing what they believe should be the future for the Los Angeles School Police Department, and that is to defund it.
LAUSD students from the youth-led organization Students Deserve, an organization that has recently been pushing the agenda of removing school police in LAUSD, have protested the LASPD numerous times and even attended several school board meetings to voice their opinions about defunding the department.
In a meeting held on Feb. 16, the Board of Education came to the decision to redirect the $25 million in funding cuts toward causes that support LAUSD’s Black students and ban the use of pepper spray on students, which should never have been an option in the first place. While it’s amazing to see that steps are being taken in the right direction, we still have quite a way to go.
According to NPR and Chalkbeat, there is no concrete evidence that shows having police officers on campus decreases in-school crimes or makes schools safer. According to several New York Times articles, studies have actually shown that schools with more police officers have increased rates of suspensions, expulsions and arrests of minors for rather insignificant offenses.
There are much better options to keep students safe rather than turning to law enforcement. Instead, it would be best to take a look at the root issue for why student bodies should need this kind of so-called “protection” in the first place: their mental health.
Defunding departments like the LASPD and using that money for school psychologists, according to the New York Times, would be a much more efficient, and much less violent, way of keeping students out of trouble.
To keep students from getting into altercations or dealing drugs, troubled students should be given the chance to take counseling and lessons teaching them about the dangers of substance abuse.
People who want officers on school grounds just want to keep their students out of danger, especially from things like mass shootings. While that isn’t a bad thing, they are going about it the wrong way. Not only are mass shootings incredibly rare, having police officers try to stop them instead of reaching a troubled student beforehand can just put more lives in danger. Trained professionals who can actually help troubled students better themselves are the way to go.
Making your school a police-free zone is a community effort. It’s important to talk to your fellow peers, parents, staff and school officials about replacing the police in your school with counselors, and possibly nurses if you want an overall safer environment that every student can flourish in.
Schools are no place for law enforcement and it’s time people understood that.