Wednesday, June 08, 2022

Why Putting More Armed Cops In Schools Is A Bad Idea

As of this morning, there have been 33 mass shootings in the US since Uvalde. Other nations have issued travel warnings about coming to our country due to gun violence. And Congress it seems is poised to do very little beyond authorizing more money to be spent on door locks and armed police presence in our schools. That's what they always do.

Thankfully, some states are poised to take action. The state of California, which is already ranked as the number one state for gun safety, is in the process of further strengthening its laws, but as long as the neighboring states continue to allow 18-year-olds to purchase assault weapons without background checks, waiting periods, or mental health assessments, it's a little like having a "peeing area" in a swimming pool: we're all going to get some on us.

The only "solution" that can achieve bi-partisan support at the federal level, however, the folks who could actually normalize not peeing in the pool, is to essentially turn our schools into day prisons for children, complete with armed guards. Of course, some schools are already like that, such as Robb Elementary School in Uvalde that did, in fact, have armed security as well as all the other prison-like measures in place. Their local police forced had even trained for exactly this horrifying scenario, yet still 19 people died by an assault weapon in the hands of an 18-year-old while the cops stood outside the door for an hour listening to the mayhem. The armed guard at the Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida where 17 kids were also killed with an assault weapon in the hands of an 18-year-old, spent the morning of that shooting illegally rummaging through student backpacks in search of drugs (that he never found) and confiscating money before proceeding to hide when the murderer showed up.

The only thing that has succeeded in reducing these tragedies, both in schools and out, in both our nation and every other nation, are common sense gun safety laws, yet Congress will once again ignore the evidence and offer to fund the police, despite the fact that there is no evidence that they can or will do anything to keep any of us safe. I understand that it makes some people feel safer to know that cops are on the beat, but just as many, including myself, don't. And feeling safe is not the same thing as actually being safe.

But its worse than that, just as that officer in Parkland was engaged in random drug searches, cops in schools are far more likely to arrest five-year-olds, body slam middle schoolers, or harass children of color, than they are to keep anyone safe from an 18-year-old with a legally purchased assault weapon. Over 50,000 America children last year were arrested in their schools by the cops in the hallway, most of whom were engaged in normal childhood behaviors, like being angry, throwing a baby carrot, or etching their initials on a sidewalk. One girl was even arrested for a felony over a science experiment that involved an explosion caused by, get this, the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. She now has to admit on her college and job applications that she has been arrested for a felony.

We live in an era when comedy shows often do better journalism than actual journalists. In a recent episode of Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver, after a detailed half hour on why armed policing of schools is a failed idea, got to the heart of the matter (excuse the language, although I believe in this case it is warranted):

What it means is asking ourselves, "What really keeps kids safe?" And I would argue that one good way to do that might be to take the money that we are inevitably about the flood toward school cops and instead direct it to counselors, nurses, and all the other resources that actually protect students. School police are not the answer to school shootings. The answer to that is gun control. And when we throw more cops into schools as an easy way out of that difficult and necessary conversation, we not only fail to keep our kids safe from gun violence, we condemn them to a system that criminalizes the very essence of childhood. Kids deserve to be annoying without being arrested; to be sad and angry without being body slammed; they deserve to have tantrums, throw carrots, and do science experiments, to talk sh*t, and to carve their name into stuff without risking ending up in the back of a police car. They deserve to be curious, to make mistakes, to go a little too far, to be a little too loud, to basically be a f**king kid. And they definitely deserve better than the fundamental lie that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy who can arrest a five-year-old.

The answer is common sense gun safety, not day prisons for our children. As I wrote last week, as educators we have the power to make common sense gun laws happen, but only if we choose to use it.

I urge everyone, including Congress, to take a moment to watch John Oliver's full segment:


"I recommend these books to everyone concerned with children and the future of humanity." ~Peter Gray, Ph.D. If you want to see what Dr. Gray is talking about you can find Teacher Tom's First Book and Teacher Tom's Second Book right here

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