Police Officers Don’t Make Schools Safer? The Debate Escalates

In response to the “excessive force” incident in a San Antonio school this week, the Texas ACLU has called for the removal of police officers from schools, saying “Police officers don't make schools safer, and they should be removed from schools altogether."   They went on to call on the San Antonio Independent School District to “take a look at their policies, practices and culture of policing,” an activity that all school districts should undertake.

While we continue to be shocked and at times horrified, by the videos that emerge from police-related incidents in schools, our response needs to be measured and strategic. No one wants to see 12 year olds body slammed into the ground, but we are equally distraught at the physical violence that can occur without an adequate supervisory presence. We have to acknowledge that sometimes, there are crisis events that occur in a school that absolutely require a police presence. Conversely, it is clear that a law enforcement approach is almost never the best response to a school disciplinary issue.

At the risk of sounding like a voice of reason amid the shouting, perhaps a more moderate, but less convenient, approach needs to be introduced:

  • Provide appropriate, education-based training for school staff in de-escalation, supervision, and crisis response, AND demand that teachers consistently use it in all situations, such that schools can apply educationally sound responses to disciplinary issues.

  • Provide appropriate, education-based training to school-based law enforcement officers in de-escalation and how to appropriately apply law enforcement techniques in an educational setting AND demand that they consistently use it, such that police officers can apply educationally sound law enforcement responses as needed if a criminal issue occurs in a school.