Home > Uncategorized > Police in Schools… and at Democratic Assemblies Are Problematic

Police in Schools… and at Democratic Assemblies Are Problematic

January 10, 2018

Like many educators across the country, I was appalled to read about and witness on videotape the arrest of Vermillion Parish (Louisiana) teacher Deyshia Hargrave. Mr. Hargrave was attending a contentious school board meeting where the board was voting on the renewal of the Superintendent of Schools contract, a renewal that the board was split on for months until one of the members who opposed the renewal died and was replaced with an ally of the Board chair, who was supportive of the Superintendent. Ms. Hargrave’s concern was not about the renewal itself, but about the contract, which included a $38,000 boost in pay.

Many of the comments on Facebook and in response to posts on Diane Ravitch’s posts regarding this incident focus on the head-handedness of the treatment but in doing so they overlook one fact that I see as key… a fact that is included in this description of the Ms. Hargraves’ arrest from KATC, the ABC affiliate that serves Southern Louisiana:

the marshal who arrested her is a school resource officer who is employed by the school board and he “was not acting in any official capacity on behalf of the city of Abbeville.”

We’ve reached out to the Marshals’ Office for comment, but none of our calls or requests have been returned. We asked if there was any change in the officer’s employment status and were told there was not.

The officer has been at board meetings for the past several months, since board members requested security for each meeting.

From my perspective, the Board made a bad decision deploying a School Resource Officers employed by the Board to monitor these meetings for several reasons. First, given the relative civility of those in attendance, the need for any police presence is questionable. The Board clearly knew community members and employees who opposed their ultimate decision would be in attendance because audiences at school board meetings, like audiences witnessing any democratic deliberations, typically consist of individuals with differing perspectives from each other and differing opinions from those who were elected by majority rule. Secondly, by having a police presence, particularly the presence of an officer who is their employee, the board is sending an implicit message that they are not open to dissident opinions and they intend to use the force of law to repress democracy if necessary. Finally, when a police officer is present, the officer decides whether a situation is “out of hand” and warrants an arrest. This deference to the judgement of School Resource Officers in student discipline cases results in the school-to-prison pipeline. The deference to a School Resource Officer in this case appears to be resulting in a democracy-to-police-state pipeline.

If our nation wants to endure as a democracy, I believe we need to re-think our entire direction in terms of deploying “good-guys-with-guns” in the name of orderliness in schools and orderliness in democracy. Schools teach orderliness they don’t impose it. And orderliness emerges from the open and democratic exchange of ideas. It is not imposed by law enforcement officers hired by school boards.


%d bloggers like this: