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Nobody Could Have Anticipated


So, putting armed policemen in schools is pretty much the best idea ever. I mean, I assume that when they’re not dealing with exceptionally rare school shootings I assume they just kinda mind their own business, and would never try to justify their existence by turning trivial disciplinary issues into criminal charges, right?

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.”

Oh. That’s surprising! But I assume once affluent suburban parents get sick of having their kids dragged away in handcuffs for sassing back at the teachers, it will all stop?

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.

Wow, this discretion is enforced in a selective and arbitrary manner against the relatively powerless? You learn something new every day! I wonder what freedom-hating states are taking the lead here — Vermont? Massachusetts?

Such criminal charges may be most prevalent in Texas, where police officers based in schools write more than 100,000 misdemeanor tickets each year, said Deborah Fowler, the deputy director of Texas Appleseed, a legal advocacy center in Austin. The students seldom get legal aid, she noted, and they may face hundreds of dollars in fines, community service and, in some cases, a lasting record that could affect applications for jobs or the military.

In February, Texas Appleseed and the Brazos County chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. filed a complaint with the federal Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights. Black students in the school district in Bryan, they noted, receive criminal misdemeanor citations at four times the rate of white students.

Ah, a state where they really understand what freedom means.

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