Despite the horrifying fact of school shootings, children are safer in school than in almost any other place. While armed officers may create the appearance of safety, an implicit goal of the program, the research is mixed. The Washington Post’s “Putting More Cops in Schools Won't Make Schools Safer, and It Will Likely Inflict a Lot of Harm” (February 2018) and other published reports/articles make this clear.
Having an armed school officer can lead to unintended consequences including increased arrests for behavior ordinarily not considered criminal. Data shows this is especially true for children of color, with learning disabilities and/or special needs. Campus police can also undermine trust, negatively affect school culture and can lead to physical harm, such as in the 2016 Nevada case where a 14-year-old was shot after defending himself against upperclassmen. As a forward-thinking district, is criminalizing and potentially harming our children the best we can offer them?
A better way to preserve student safety is for community stakeholders (parents, students, and staff) to work together to build a positive school climate that “minimizes police intervention and emphasizes positive, preventive approaches,” as the Children’s Defense Fund recommends. By opposing a campus cop, we have an opportunity to create an inclusive and supportive approach so all students feel welcome and safe on campus, not policed.
And what about after the funds are gone in three years? How will the District explain away the need for an armed officer, whether for drug prevention or for safety? In light of the coming budget cuts, what are the District’s plans to pay for this added personnel if the officer is still needed at that time?
The School Board and City Council asks for community input before they vote on this proposal. You can find information at www.padc.info and sign a petition. More importantly, email Board & Council members and come to the Board meeting on Wednesday February 27th at 7PM, when the matter is slated to be discussed.
Tonda Case and David Gard, Co-Presidents,
PADC and the PADC Executive Board