Should the Government Set Up Police Officers in Schools?
A rise in school shootings in the past few years left many wondering whether armed officers should be set up in schools.
Rise of the Issue
The recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas has reignited the debate on whether schools should have police officers. No matter what side of the issue one is on, all agree that the primary focus should be on how to best preserve innocent lives, especially those of children.
Proponents of police officers being stationed in schools primarily rely on the increased safety officers would offer the schools, teachers, and students, pointing out that gunmen are unlikely to attack a place where they know officers are stationed (they point out that places like courthouses are not often spots for mass shootings). Moreover, proponents suggest that police presence would be good for students, pushing them to better behave and would even create relationships between students and officers.
Opponents of having police officers in schools, however, point out that students would likely feel uncomfortable with the presence of armed officers. After the rise of the Black Lives Matter Movement, opponents also say that police, who they argue have a systemic racist bias, are likely to bring this bias into the schools and would not be good for students of color.
A 2021 YouGov poll found 45% of Americans believe police officers make schools safer, 29% say there is no serious impact, and 14% say they make schools less safe.
The First School Policing Program is Created in Los Angeles
The Los Angeles School Police Department created what is believed to be the first special unit specifically to protect schools.
School Resource Officers Begin to Appear
Law enforcement officers specifically for schools, known as “School Resource Officers”, began to appear across the country, beginning with the city of Flint, Michigan.
President Bill Clinton Calls for More Police in Schools
Following school shootings such as Columbine, President Clinton called for police officers to be stationed in schools.
A Democrat-Led Federal Bill Aims to End the Over-Policing of K-12 Schools
Six Democratic federal lawmakers, including Sen. Elizabeth Warren, introduced the Counseling Not Criminalization in Schools Act, which in part would divert funds for policing schools into nurturing school-counseling programs.
Protect the Innocent
Those in favor of having police officers in schools argue that it is a necessary step that would save the lives of innocent children and teachers. However, opponents say stationing police officers at schools rather triggers more students to be either arrested or suspended.
Opponents of police in schools argue that the presence of officers would change the academic environment and potentially harm students' mental well-being, while proponents say such presence will provide a secure learning environment that provides peace of mind to students and educators.
Opponents of police in schools say this could create racial issues for children of color as one academic study found police more likely to consider them a threat. Others however say police presence at schools helps preempt classroom violence, promoting safer learning environments for students of all races.
Police officers are already used to protecting other buildings.
Whether it is a bank, courthouse, or prison, police officers are already used to dissuading would-be attackers from harming inhabitants, and schools should be no different.
It allows an officer to be able to stop and neutralize a threat faster.
A typical police response time can be upwards of ten to twenty minutes, while an officer that is on the scene from the beginning would be able to stop any attack even before it started.
Children can feel safer and focus on their work without worrying about an attacker.
Students would not have to worry about attacks or other dangers to their safety and could focus solely on their studies.
Students are more likely to behave when an officer is present.
When an officer is present, students are less likely to engage in horseplay and other dangerous things children can partake in.
Police presence can be a deterrent for a would-be assailant before an attack would even start.
If an attacker knows that police officers are stationed in the school, they are unlikely to even enter the facility.
Officers in schools are likely to be used to make arrests for noncriminal students.
There is a reason people say “let kids be kids,” and it is that children learn through their mistakes. However, if police are stationed in schools, they would likely arrest students for otherwise childish behavior and create a permanent criminal history.
Other safety measures are more likely to be effective than police officers.
Metal detectors, single points of entry, and doors that only open outward are all steps that could be taken that would not require police with guns to be stationed in schools.
Police officers would be an additional cost that schools and localities may not be able to afford.
Most schools already struggle to fund their teachers and programs and having to pay for officers would be an additional expense a lot of schools could not afford.
Police officers could be a distraction for students.
With the rise in cases of ADHD and other attention issues, some students would not be able to properly focus on their studies with an officer present in the classroom.
Officers would only be able to do so much while there.
An officer can only watch over an area so large and would-be assailants could plan for this and other similar logistical failings.