Dec 13, 2013
The School Security America Doesn’t Need
Posted on Feb 27, 2013
By Chase Madar, TomDispatch
Other schools—particularly urban ones with working-class African-American and Latino students—are not so lucky. When President Obama announced his pledge of more “resource officers” in schools, he was quick to qualify it with an “if they want them.” A laudable sentiment that doesn’t really reflect how things usually work on the ground.
One Brooklyn high school principal I interviewed told me of the constant pressure he experienced from higher up in the New York City Department of Education to put in a metal detector and more police personnel. Another school security success story I profiled back in 2008 has since had a metal detector rammed down its educational throat despite its immaculate disciplinary record. Now, its students are made to feel like potential criminals from the moment they arrive every morning. The logic is, in its way, all-American: crazy white kids go on shooting sprees, and then the screws tighten on Black and Latino kids.
Resisting the Axis of Tiny Handcuffs
Is there any hope of preventing the rush to put more first graders in handcuffs? Yes, but don’t expect any help from the NRA, which is actively promoting a heavily armed vision of heaven on Earth in which armed guards will be everywhere, with all public space turned into an airport security line. As for Barbara Boxer, evidently she wasn’t as struck as I was by the t-shirts that Sacramento’s school security police made with the slogan “U Raise ‘Em, We Cage ‘Em” emblazoned on the image of a child behind bars. Or maybe she should talk to constituents like five-year-old arrestee Michael Davis or the seven-year-old in San Mateo whom a cop blasted in the face with pepper spray for climbing a bookshelf. It remains to be seen if the NRA and Boxer, united, can ever be defeated.
Ending this cycle of armed fear and violence will require getting police out of the schools along with the whole battery of security state accessories. The only way to get there will be via the broadest possible civil libertarian coalition: Black community groups and Ron Paul types, immigrants’ rights activists and teachers and principals unions that see the big picture, liberals and conservatives united against the nanny/thug state.
There could be no finer spokesperson for such an ecumenical gathering than the newly crowned Miss America, Alabama-raised Brooklyn-residing Mallory Hytes Hagan. After wowing the pageant judges with her terpsichorean prowess, she demonstrated the soundest policy judgment. Asked if she thought it was a good idea to bring armed guards into schools, Ms. Hagan’s response was clear. “No, I don’t think the proper way to fight violence is with violence.” According to the New York Daily News, she said it “firmly.” Let people of goodwill rally behind this model citizen to end all the grotesque violence in our schools.
Chase Madar (@ChMadar) is a civil rights attorney in New York City who has written about the proven alternatives to school security overkill. His latest book is The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower (Verso).
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Copyright 2013 Chase Madar
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