Today brings yet another video of a school police officer using significant physical force with a student. There are two sides to the dilemma of a law enforcement official putting hands on a kid. In some instances, the situation is no longer an educational event, but rather a criminal event, and the person being physically subdued is a perpetrator of a crime. Conversely, in other instances the person being man-handled is a student who is involved in a disciplinary problem, not a crime, yet they are dealt with in a criminal, not educational fashion.
In the latest video from a San Antonio school, a 12 year girl who was involved in a “verbally aggressive” altercation with another student is shown being body slammed to the ground. While we must not rush to judgement on the specifics of these types of cases, let’s keep in mind that we are talking about a 12 year old student, not an adult criminal, who was involved in an argument with words, however contentious, not fists.
Regardless of the outcome of the investigation launched by the district, these sort of videos remind us that simply putting law enforcement into schools does not solve every problem. Often districts opt for the quick fix of paying for a single resource officer, rather than investing in appropriate education-based training for all their staff members. While there may be a need for law enforcement intervention in some cases, school staff members trained in de-escalation, violence prevention, and mediation who are empowered and invested in establishing a safe and supportive school climate are a much better return on a district’s investment.