Policing in Schools
By Zion Brooks
School is one of the most important places for students to feel safe. School is where students learn and grow. For many students, it is the only place they can do so. When most students enter school there is always a feeling of comfort. It’s something about reaching my destination that makes me feel safe. Walking through the small hallways and seeing the familiar faces of peers and teachers makes you feel at peace. Notice that there was no mention of school police or security. For many students including myself police and security, it’s safety.
School police grew popular during the Jim Crow era and in 2020, the presents of police in schools are still deemed necessary. All Philadelphia public schools regularly encounter police, surveillance cameras, metal detectors, or excessive hallway monitoring. Just last year the School District of Philadelphia created a bill mandating all high schools have metal detectors for students. Why?
As a student, that left me questioning: are we really that dangerous? The board’s crucial argument focused on safety, but from who? Other students? Those are people who we build lasting relationships with over a four year period. The teachers? Those are our mentors. When most guests enter schools they don’t have to go through metal detectors, so who are students being protected from?
The majority of the students in the Schools District of Philadelphia are black youth. Most of these students don’t know what life without heavy police influence looks like because they are being harshly policed not only in their schools but in their neighborhoods. These students never seem to get a break, whether outside or even inside at school. This amount of extreme discipline sends a message to children at an early age that they are “bad”. Labels like this follow children and influence them to become what they hear. According to The Center for Parenting Education, labeling children can be incredibly disabling. These labels stick with children and can even cause trauma difficult to escape later on in adulthood
This dynamic tricks down to high school. Philadelphia schools are over-policed and under-staffed. This makes it incredibly hard not only to learn but to promote achievement. In a study conducted by UCLA, 13,151 students in Pennsylvania reported attending a school with police and no counselors. The Philadelphia School District spends millions of dollars on security yearly but most schools don’t have updated technology. According to Philadelphia Home and School President, “70% of Philadelphia public schools don’t provide computers for their students to take home” a reality made disturbingly clear in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time educational staff and technology prevailed as necessary to ensure the success of remote learning. Over policing assisted with none of the efforts that promoted student advancement. The school district should invest in more educational and social-emotional resources,