Does your school have a police officer on duty?
Many public schools across the country have a police officer on campus during the day. Sometimes referred to as “school resource officers,” they are authorized to issue tickets and arrest students when necessary. They are no different than the cop on the street or in your neighborhood. They bring juvenile justice on to the school campus.
A nonprofit advocacy group in Texas conducted a study of 22 of the largest school districts in the state. The report from Texas Appleseed is titled “Texas School to Prison Pipeline: Dropout to Incarceration.”
Results indicated that infractions at school, at one time handled with a trip to the principal’s office, now meant a trip to court. Students are being charged with low misdemeanors for disrupting class, using profanity, acting up on a school bus, fights and truancy.
The “Criminalization of student misbehavior extends to even the youngest students,” the report said. “In Texas, students as young as 6 have been ticketed at school in the past five years, and it is not uncommon for elementary school students to be ticketed by school-based law enforcement.” The report also found a disproportionate number of African American students ticketed. Sixty-two percent of the misdemeanor tickets were issued to blacks who make up only 30% of enrollment. A similar finding but to a lesser extent existed regarding Hispanic students.
Texas Appleseed assessed the data and made the following recommendations to reverse the trend of school dropouts and incarcerations. They recommended that the state Education Code be amended as follows: 1) require school districts to consider a students’ “intent” in non-violent and non-criminal cases before suspension 2) set a cap on the number of days a student can be suspended in a school year 3) alert parents immediately when disciplinary action is taken, and 4) create a parent and student “Bill of Rights and Responsibilities”. The organization also calls for funding for expanded school-based mental health services.