Criminalizing Childhood

BLOG SOUP This is just sad:  The effectiveness of using police officers in schools to deter crime or the remote threat of armed intruders is unclear. 


The new NRA report cites the example of a Mississippi assistant principal who in 1997 got a gun from his truck and disarmed a student who had killed two classmates, and another in California in which a school resource officer in 2001 wounded and arrested a student who had opened fire with a shotgun.

Yet the most striking impact of school police officers so far, critics say, has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts.

“There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety,” said Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland who is an expert in school violence. “And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.”

Nationwide, hundreds of thousands of students are arrested or given criminal citations at schools each year. A large share are sent to court for relatively minor offenses, with black and Hispanic students and those with disabilities disproportionately affected, according to recent reports from civil rights groups, including the Advancement Project, in Washington, and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, in New York.

The good news is that they very rarely even get a legal defense and end up going through huge hoops over what used to be understood as normal adolescent behavior requiring parental interventions or counselling, maybe detention or suspension. But I guess it's never too early to turn our kids into criminals.

(Digby is the pseudonym of progressive political blogger Heather Parton from Santa Monica, California who founded the blog Hullabaloo… where this commentary first appeared.)





Vol 11 Issue 31

Pub: Apr 16, 2013