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POLICING THE SCHOOLS


May 05, 2000
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POLICING THE SCHOOLS

As the result of an alarming number of school shootings in recent years, educational facilities around the country have stepped up security measures to a degree unparalleled in American life. A national summit on school violence attended by administrators, law enforcement, and students has produced some interesting findings. The increase in a police presence in the hallways has had a positive effect when it comes to students feeling safe. But many students say that feeling of safety is despite of, not due to increased security. One student, a high-school sophomore from Massachusetts, told the panel consisting of 12 state attorneys general there was such a thing as too much security. He didn’t mind the policeman stationed in the school hallway. Nor was he bothered by the requirement that students had to wear I.D. cards. But when the high school mandated clear-plastic book bags so officials could check for guns, drugs or bombs, he decided things were getting too secure. “When I get up to go to school in the morning,” the young man told the attorneys general, “I don’t want to feel like I’m going to a correctional facility.” Other students addressed concerns they had about high-profile security measures being adopted instead of more outreach and counseling programs for troubled students who may commit crimes at school. They also raised the need for more after-school programs. But one aspect of the new level of security that no one seemed to mind was the addition of a police officer in a school. Many students said that even if they weren’t concerned about the possibility of a Columbine-type incident, that it was nice to have a cop on campus anyway to keep a lid on the kind of day-to-day violence that goes on in schools. The students who participated said they would feel best about a two-tiered approach to safety where physical safety and emotional well-being were addressed in concert. One girl, a junior, said, “If you don’t have anyone to talk to, if you have no one to express yourself to, you might do something desperate.” The forum was sponsored by the National Association of State Attorneys General and is the first in a series of three such meetings to be followed by a report.



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