More police are not the solution for school violence prevention

In the wake of the horrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, we understand the need for action and the urgency to seek meaningful solutions towards violence prevention. Unfortunately, we have seen a surge of proposals across the country to increase police, armed guards and even posses in schools from diverse proponents:

  • Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA)
  • National Rifle Association (NRA)
  • President Obama
  • Sheriff Arpaiao (AZ)

The presence of law enforcement and security infrastructure already contributes to ‘pre-prison' conditions in our schools.  Increasing them is not a solution. 

We need more effective and holistic approaches to support safe school environments that do not run the risks of unnecessarily criminalizing students and increasing school push-out.

Civil rights impacts, educational harms

Over-policing of school and ‘pre-prison' security infrastructure (i.e. metal detectors, searches, surveillance, tiplines and personnel) undermines the work of educators and has a negative effect on academic achievement.

The expansion of police and security infrastructure in response to isolated incidents of violence at schools, like Columbine, has resulted in the devastating consequence of criminalizing student behavior that has disproportionately harsh impacts for students of color.

True solutions for school safety

Effective school safety strategies do exist that have nothing to do with police and security infrastructure but rather, require the creation of healthy, supportive environments where students can develop strong and trusting relationships with teachers, administrators, and other school employees.

Given the consequences of increased presence of police and security infrastructure at schools, there is an urgent need for clear parameters and restrictions on the role of law enforcement that is not addressed or contained in the proposed legislation.

Now more than ever, supporting safe and healthy school environments requires redirecting our critical resources towards proven prevention strategies as alternatives to law enforcement and security infrastructure, including

  • mental health services
  • school-wide positive behavior supports
  • restorative/transformative justice interventions
  • other supports that truly foster a positive and engaging school environment