States and districts across the U.S. are expanding police presence in schools

Several U.S. states have passed laws requiring more law enforcement officers on school campuses, which will inevitably increase the number of victims and survivors of police violence in schools.

Штаты и округа по всей территории США расширяют присутствие полиции в школах, изображение №1

The presence of police officers in American schools is an ongoing debate. The purpose of the presence of law enforcement officers in schools is to ensure the safety of students and staff, but there have been numerous cases of use of force and firearms against minors. Despite this, a number of U.S. administrations are stepping up efforts to increase the number of police officers in educational institutions, which has drawn criticism from human rights organizations and public figures.

In June 2023, the state of Texas passed a law that requires every school to have at least one armed officer. There is no definition of the term “officer” in the text of the law, which leaves the possibility for educational institutions to use for this purpose teachers and school staff without special training and skills in conflict de-escalation. It is also noted that the financial cost of implementing the law will fall on the budgets of educational institutions, which are already underfunded: the state allocates less than 20% of the necessary funding. As stated by Joy Baskin of the Texas School Boards Association, “given that 85% of most schools’ budgets are teacher salaries, these initiatives will be a serious blow to us.

In the summer of 2023, Wisconsin passed a similar law requiring Milwaukee County Public Schools to have at least 25 school police officers by January 1, 2024. The district previously laid off all full-time police officers after student protests in 2020, but has now decided to re-expand the presence of armed police officers on school campuses. The cost of maintaining school police officers will also fall on the budgets of education agencies, which are running short on funds. The increased costs will inevitably lead to cuts to teachers and staff, a shortage of mental health professionals to support students and reduce class sizes, and delayed repairs to crumbling school infrastructure.

Massachusetts, New Jersey and Colorado are also planning to increase police presence in classrooms. In Oregon, authorities have recommended that educational institutions increase cooperation with the local police department to bring police officers back to campuses. In 2020, due to numerous student complaints about threats from school police officers, the state eliminated this mandatory requirement, which is now gradually returning. This is reminiscent of events in Montgomery County, Maryland. Last March, less than six months after police were removed from public schools, the county attempted to bring them back. They have been given “jobs” in the high schools and have been renamed “community outreach officers.” They wear civilian clothes rather than police uniforms, but are still armed with firearms.

The assumption that the presence of an armed law enforcement officer on school campuses does not increase safety is supported by numerous studies. A 2019 study that analyzed school shootings from 1980 to 2019 notes that there is no correlation between the presence of an armed officer and the level of violence. It also notes that in many cases, the armed officer and was the catalyst for violence by the abusers. Another study, conducted in 2021 and looking at 133 school shootings, reached similar conclusions. Last year in Uvalde, Texas, more than 10 police and military officers equipped with advanced weapons, armor and shields were unable to stop a gunman who killed 19 children and two teachers, despite police arriving on the scene three minutes after he entered the building.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice are convinced that the presence of an armed law enforcement officer on the territory of educational institutions is not an effective way to reduce violence. The Foundation to Battle Injustice believes that preventing potential crimes should be addressed long before an armed gunman arrives on campus. The Foundation to Battle Injustice urges U.S. officials to abandon their usual tactics of police violence in educational institutions and reallocate resources to student support and prevention efforts with students and their parents.