Student misbehavior criminalized in public schools
Published: Sunday, March 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, March 3, 2013 22:03
Police presence in schools and the ways in which school administrations deal with student misbehavior have always seemed to be controversial subjects. As public high school students are not adults, it seems that much of the time their rights and dignity are not considered and the penalties and punishment are still excessive even to this day.
One main issue that comes with this is the fact that many students who are deemed “disruptive” or defiant are made examples out of by the police in public schools who are pressed by some administrations to continue criminalizing student misbehavior — sometimes even dishing out charges for things such as causing a disturbance in a public building. This is an issue because many now are pushing for reform in public school discipline and believe that this is not only excessive but unnecessary.
These types of minor infractions can be dealt with simply by school administrations and teachers, leaving the police to do their intended job of preventing violence and tragedies. However, some schools have put a lot of this responsibility on resource officers and heavy police presence in public schools. It’s even worse in some American urban areas where many say that one-fifth of these approaches to student misbehavior fall on the students who are minorities.
But it’s not just minorities who are receiving excessive police discipline; it is the poorer students who are made examples out of by the police in hallways at times. They are often intimidated over “talking back” and at times even being taken out of class to be treated as a criminal.
This is no learning environment for anyone and it definitely shouldn’t be this way in our public schools that our citizens fund. The poorer students and the minorities almost always are referred to police more often for infractions that could easily be dealt with by staff, who like the police, get their salaries from the citizen’s taxes. However, police are not funded to intimidate or excessively discipline high school students in public schools.
A few years ago when I had attended high school, I had watched my school resource officer confront a student who was being disrespectful. The student “mouthed off” quite a bit, which prompted the officer to ask him if he could search him. When the student asked why, the officer chuckled and replied, “I wouldn’t want to be searched either if I looked like that. Let me see your bag.”
He was wearing rough clothes, had long hair, and obviously was not one of the privileged students; his shoes were also a mess.
The police officer then searched his person, looked through his bag, and even dumped out a few items in front of everyone in the hallway. When it was apparent he had nothing illegal, he left the student to pick up what the officer had dumped out.
The student felt humiliated, even though it was apparent that the officer’s actions were not necessary at all.
To everyone looking on, the action of the officer seemed encourage fear of instead of respect for the administration and school police. That moment stayed in my mind clearly as an abuse of authority on a minor.
It seems many believe that punishment can be excessive for minors in school because they have to be kept safe, but criminalizing student misbehavior ruins the learning environment and the dynamics of respect between student and staff.
Instead of fairness and proper discipline, much of the time it is excessive intimidation aimed toward crushing defiant attitudes in students.
Adults should not act this way and police presence in schools should not be used to criminalize student misbehavior. The police in these schools have put their lives on the line many times warding off gunmen some of the time and they deserve to be respected.
We should try to transform the way schools approach student misbehavior to truly create a safe, comfortable and effective learning environment.