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Posts Tagged ‘Guns in School’

The Culture Wars Continue in WA State Despite Covid 19

June 11, 2020 Comments off

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As described in this Washington State regional newspaper, one of the hot button issues of the culture wars, sex education, will be on the ballot in November. In the pre-pandemic session of the WA state legislature, both chambers passed a very progressive sex ed law that mandated units at various grade spans beginning at K-3. Even though the law was full of parental opt out and local control provisions it was opposed by many religious groups and state education organizations. The group most staunchly opposed to the law was the Catholic Church, who quickly developed a petition to overturn the law, a petition that will be on the ballot in November. I think it is unfortunate that legislators feel compelled to use their political capital on fights like these that should be delegated to either State Boards of Education or local communities. By drawing attention to this kind of hot button issue the legislators divert attention from the more important issues like funding equity, housing, segregation, and gun control … issues that should be universally appealing to moral leaders of all religious stripes and strongly supported by all education groups.

Should We “Defund” Police? It Depends on the Definition of “Defund”…. AND the Definition of “Police”

June 9, 2020 Comments off

The front page of our local newspaper ran AP writer Michael Balsamo’s recent article on the slippery definition of “defunding police”. In most cases, “defunding” is not intended to eliminate ALL funding for police departments altogether. Rather, it is a response to the collective belief that many communities are over-policed and, because the police departments are soaking up lots of tax dollars, under-resourced in social services. In the article, Balsamo quotes California Democrat Karen Bass, chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who clarified that “the movement was really about how money is spent.”

“Now, I don’t believe that you should disband police departments,” she said in an interview with CNN. “But I do think that, in cities, in states, we need to look at how we are spending the resources and invest more in our communities. Maybe this is an opportunity to re-envision public safety.”

“Defunding” is, then, shorthand for “re-appropriate money for police into more social services”… a phrase that does not lend itself to slogans but IS much clearer.

I agree that we are spending far to much on police, and much of the money is being used to ask police to perform duties and accept responsibilities that might be done better by other agencies. The national movement to add SROs to schools is a case in point. When a school district that lacks social workers, guidance counselors, and classroom teachers hires a police office to perform duties that could be done by non-uniformed school staff it seems like a bad investment.

MAYBE the defund movement will look even more deeply into our spending patterns as a nation and dome to the conclusion that we are not only mis-appropriating funds for the 18,000+ police departments in our country, we are also spending WAY too much to police the world. Maybe, instead of staffing the armed forces to perform “nation building” functions and funding munitions to help them do it in the way they know best, we might spend more on agencies like the USAID, Voice of America, and Peace Corps. Those groups can help explain why the citizens of countries ruled by tyrants would be better off with a different governance model. Investments in diplomacy and butter would do far more for spreading peace than investments in guns and drones.

Peace will not come at the point of a gun and sustainable order cannot be imposed by uniformed police. If “defunding” means re-appropriating state and local dollars away from police, maybe a parallel movement could get underway to do the same thing at the national level.

School Shootings Led to SROs… Police Brutality Leading to their Demise

June 3, 2020 Comments off

The public’s love affair with “good guys with guns” might be coming to an end. Last evening, in response to the horrific murder of an innocent black man at the hands of the Minneapolis police, the Minneapolis school Board voted to terminate its relationship with them. As reported by Lois Beckett of the Guardian:

The city’s public school board unanimously approved a resolution on Tuesday night that will end the district’s contract with the Minneapolis police department to use officers to provide school security. The Minneapolis superintendent said he would begin work on an alternative plan to keep the district’s more than 35,000 students safe in the coming school year.

“We cannot continue to be in partnership with an organization that has the culture of violence and racism that the Minneapolis police department has historically demonstrated,” Nelson Inz, one of the school board members, said. “We have to stand in solidarity with our black students.”

While the vote does not bring justice for Floyd, “it will show that meaningful change is possible,” Nathaniel Genene, the school board’s student representative, said.

I have written several blog posts and a couple of op ed pieces questioning the need for “good guys with guns” in public schools and the millions of dollars schools have spent on “hardening”. Schools can partner with police and have productive relationships with local low enforcement without having them inside the building. Moreover, as Ms. Beckett writes, while the school shootings that captured national headlines were typically done by “young white men” it is the African-American community that has suffered from the placement of police officers in schools:

For decades, school shootings, typically carried out by young white men, have prompted the American government to invest hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars in putting armed law enforcement officers inside schools.

But studies have shown that more students enter the criminal justice system when more police officers are in schools, sparking concern from some advocates that the attempt to protect American children from mass shootings had unintentionally fueled a school-to-prison pipeline that disproportionately harms students of color.

And because the introduction of police in schools leads to a pipeline to prison, and because of the action by the Minneapolis School Board in the wake of police brutality, and because school districts will be increasingly strapped for cash, I expect more school boards will take a deeper look at their contracts with local police… and as Ms. Beckett reports, that involves a LOT of school districts:

More than 70% of public secondary schools and 30% of primary schools in the United States have sworn law enforcement officers who routinely carry firearms, according to 2015-2016 data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

“In San Francisco, we’ve had 10-year-olds that have had the police called on them. Kindergarteners. Fifth-graders,” said Neva Walker, the executive director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth, a non-profit group that focuses on creating more equitable public schools.

“We have to get past the idea that police are the means to protect our children, especially for black and brown students,”she said.

Let’s hope the one meaningful change that happens as a result of George Floyd’s murder is a community dialogue in each of the 70% of public schools that has an SRO.

 

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