Do We Really Want More Cops In Schools?

Yesterday there was a debate before the House Education Committee over two school security bills.

One was HB1195, sponsored by Rep. Dwight Kiefer (R-Valley City), which would allow school boards to choose and train certain personnel to concealed carry on school grounds. The other was HB1388, also introduced by Kiefert, which would begin a pilot program to fund school resource officers – basically cops in schools – at rural districts.

Kiefert’s driving concern with this legislation is the gap in security between rural schools and urban schools. Larger communities like Fargo can afford to have police officers protecting their schools. That’s not an option for many rural schools. Kiefert is hoping to provide some resources for officers in rural schools, and also allow for an alternative solution like training and arming current school employees.

I’ll say that I like HB1195 more than I like HB1388.

An unfortunate truth is that people aiming for mayhem often choose schools as their targets. This is indisputable. What many believe, and others may dispute, is that the status of schools as “gun free zones” make them attractive targets. Places where shooters can shoot the longest without fear of being shot back at.

“Frankly, I am appalled that there are people who actually think we should equip school personnel with guns,” Jon Martinson, executive director of the North Dakota School Boards Association, told the committee yesterday. But I’m appalled that Mr. Martinson would deny his constituency the choice HB1195 provides. It doesn’t require that schools arm teachers. It only allows them to do and, rather brilliantly, the bill also allows that the schools choosing this option be kept a secret.

Meaning those wishing to attack a North Dakota schools have no guarantee that their target will really be a “gun free zone.”

Why is it so unreasonable to allow local school boards to make that choice?

On the other hand, I think there is much to be concerned about with HB1388 which would put more cops in our hallways.

Another truth about school shootings is that they’re actually pretty rare, despite the attention they get in the news and popular culture. Meaning that most of what cops would be doing in our schools is, I’m afraid, responding to minor behavior issues like cops elevating them from trivial offenses to crimes.

Case in point, in December a situation with a dress code violation was escalated into an arrest by a Fargo police officer patrolling the school. The student in question was acting like a punk – refusing to pull up his pants and respond to school officials – but video showed the police officer going out of his way to detain the student because of the infraction and the matter ended up in a physical altercation.

Had the cop not been there, the matter probably would have been resolved with detention or a suspension. Because the cop was there, it escalated.

I’m afraid that as we put more cops in our schools, more and more school policy is going to be enforced by cops and not administrators. Is that really what we want?

I’m not blaming the cops for acting like cops. They see the world around them through the lens of law enforcement. But I’m not sure what we need in schools is a law enforcement mentality.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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