To Protect & Educate?

From time to time when I am watching a film, it can really move me. That’s one thing I like about documentaries, they produce a genuine emotion. Sure, movies can do that too; however you know it’s not real. Sure you wanted the girl to finally confess her love to the boy vampire and when it happens, you feel joy (or nauseated), but you know deep down that it’s not real and that joy is hollow. Not that it doesn’t mean anything to you. Trust me, 38 year old me still gets that little cold shiver when Darth Vader says “No, I am your father.” just like 4 year old me did when I see that scene in “The Empire Strikes Back”  and the same giddiness when the Slave-1 takes off from Bespin with one carbonite frozen Han Solo in the cargo hold, but those feelings pale in comparison to the emotions that some of these films that I have been watching of the past few weeks have made me feel. The emotion that they provoke are just like their subject matter: true.

The film that I finished that prompted me to come and start typing this out was called “Kids for Cash” it regarding the Luzerne County juvenile court scandal involving Judge Mark Ciavarella.  The film shed light on a few things that I have to get out of my head and all of these points I cannot believe actually happen here in the US. I don’t know why I get shocked by these type of things anymore (Especially since the film I watch before that was about the Enron scandal premeditated plan to fuck over EVERYONE) because I know these things happen. I know they happen because I read the news, I see these types of films, and I maybe I am just too damn observant, but it still is something that I think we all need to be aware of.

Here’s what I am talking about:

The beginning of the film starts with a blurb about the UN Treaty called “Convention on the Rights of the Child” that was done up in 1989 and that every country in the UN had signed and ratified the treaty except 2 (it may have said 3 but I don’t recall the 3rd) Somalia, and the United States. That was at the time of the film, Somalia has now signed & ratified this treaty since. The US has signed it; however we have not ratified it (with the exception of two optional clauses) and we are the ONLY nation in the UN to not have ratified this treaty.


You then start learning about the scandal and the key elements, but then the film goes into something that I have not given a lot of thought about either in schools or in the world itself. And that is the Zero – Tolerance policy.

I see this all the time. On bill boards, on police cars, on the Internet; however I have never really put a lot of thought into it other than “this means there is no tolerance for X, so I better not do X“. After watching this film and now reading up on what the Zero-Tolerance (aka: Zero-Logic) policies in schools are, they are quite possibly the most insane thing that I have ever heard of. Now I get some of these, but we still have to use our fucking heads! Zero-tolerance about dealing heroine at school, zero-tolerance about about chasing people with an axe at school, and Zero-Tolerance about about firearms at school I get these types of policies. However, I still think we should let little Jenny tell us why she is dealing black-tar heroine during Eng. 4 or why Robert decided to bring that rocket launcher to school today. Instead, this shit happens:

  • After bringing a Cub Scouts dinner knife to school to eat his lunch, a six-year-old boy was ordered to attend an alternative school for students with behavioral problems for nine weeks.
  • A third-grader was expelled for a year because her grandmother sent a birthday cake, and a knife for cutting the cake, to school. The teacher used the knife to cut the cake, and then reported her to the authorities as having a dangerous weapon. The expulsion was overturned and led to a state law that gave districts the ability to, “on a case-by-case basis, modify the terms of the expulsion.
  • A second grader in Baltimore, Maryland, was suspended in March 2013 for biting a Pop-Tart into the shape of a mountain, which school officials mistook for a gun.
  • A kindergartner in Grand Rapids, Michigan, was suspended in March 2010 for making a finger gun.

Schools and faculty go ape shit over these policies. Schools because they don’t want to be liable for anything and face lawsuits, District/State/Federal Scrutiny, the media, or loose any type of funding. The faculty doesn’t want to get their hands on anything because they will have to face the parents, risk loosing their job, or can’t do anything due to restrictions put on them in regards to punishment by the school/district/state/Fed. Government. So, now we have these Zero-Tolerance policies that cover everything (and fix nothing) imaginable and the best part is that it requires zero-thought. You did X ? Well, that comes under our Zero-Tolerance policy against “all things kids may do” and we automatically do Y as a punishment, end of discussion. It requires no discussion, the adult doesn’t have to think, the child isn’t allowed to speak and the parents can take it to the school board regarding the policy and go through a lengthy battle or find another way of educating their kid. It’s Zero-though, Zero-discussion, Zero-Options and Zero-logic involved. The worst part is, the kid doesn’t get why they are being punished. Even the 15-year old angst ridden emo kid. Why? Because his brain is still developing! It will continue until he is about 23. That’s why kids are “dumb” their brain is still growing and developing. You still have to help them and correct them. Instead, let’s just make a policy that is devoid of thought and just goes right to us disciplining the child as hard as we can.

That’s if your kid isn’t arrested first and you aren’t called by the principal, but the cops.

I remember this boogeyman showing up at my school in my senior year. All of the sudden, in 1995, we had a cop roaming our school. I don’t remember if he was called an SRO. I just remember he was only a few years older than us, and not very bright or very nice (unless you were blonde, had a nice rack and were in a short skirt). He was there to root out the “massive drug problem” in our school, and end all of the “violence”. So,he was there to stop the kids who dropped acid, keep us from going to Taco Bell at lunch and stop the rare fight intense staring contest with angry looks and heavy breathing between the stoners and ropers (cowboys); OK, got it. Mainly, he chatted up girls, handed out tickets for smoking on campus, kept me from my burrito and played hackey sack with the acid kids that he was supposed to be busting for being “the drug problem”.

Now days, there is an SRO in all of schools here. The High School, both Junior Highs and one that tours the Elementary schools (If I heard correctly) in my town. In the movie ( and in life) the SRO is the school’s henchman. He’s the guy that can enforce discipline and keep the school’s hands clean. Also, with broad broad zero-tolerance policies, he can also exercise his/her power as a law enforcement officer and detain/arrest your child. This isn’t something I am telling you to scare you, it’s just a fact. I went to find what the definition of a SRO’s role actually is. The website for the National Association of School Resource Officers had nothing. They had no definition of what their role is in your child’s schools, just mainly how to become a member and some resource material. Then I went to a couple of other sites (that weren’t just PDF’s) and found these two plain English definitions:

Roles of SRO:

Law Enforcer
Informal Counselor
Emergency Manager



We have defined a School Resource Officer as a sworn officer assigned to a school on a long-term basis trained to perform three major roles: law enforcement officer, law-related counselor and law-related educator..


Did you see it?

Both definitions (and I am willing to bet most definitions) of the role of the SRO have Law Enforcer as the first part of their roles. They are not their to mentor your children, or be their buddy that will council them in that time of crisis; they are cops and they are there to be cops. Now, I know there have been some heinous tragedies at our schools and no one wants another one of those; however a constant police presence in schools will not prevent that. (Neither will arming the faculty or any other crazy schemes I have heard) What it does do is send more kids to jail, even for minor and non-violent offences. These kids are impacted by this, some do not even graduate because of it, and some end up in their own tragedy and either develop a mental disorder or end up taking their own life due to the trauma.

There was an article written in Time about if SRO’s in schools did more harm than good. The article eventually mentions two opposing studies. One that shows that students will be involved in the criminal justice system for every offence that occurs in schools (which I can believe due to the talks that I have had with my child-having friends) and the counter study that the National Association of School Resource Officers quotes on their site that states:

Supporting these national statistics is a 2009 study by Matthew T. Theriot, comparing 13 high and middle schools that had an SRO and 15 schools without an SRO within one school district in the Southeastern United States over a three-year period––2003-04, 2004-05, and 2005-06. 53 When the results were controlled for economic disadvantage, the presence of an SRO led to a 52.3% decrease in the arrest rate for assaults and a 72.9% decrease in arrests involving possession of a weapon on school property.

So, of course I went looking for these studies and read them both (I now have a headache, you’re welcome).

The first report by Jason P. Nance basically tells us that the more contact that kids have with an SRO, the more likely that they will end up being arrested. When I read the paper (Its a legal paper and I am not a lawyer, but it mostly made sense), I should say that your child will more than likely end up being arrested and not be given their rights, because they are at school.

Despite the Supreme Court’s pronouncement that students do not “shed their constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gate,” students’ constitutional protections with respect to investigation,detainment, interrogation, and punishment at school are quite limited…courts consistently hold that a school official may question a student without providing Miranda warnings, regardless of the possibility that the
school official might later refer that student to law enforcement for wrongdoing…

So, if you do something as nefarious as say, violate the school dress code. The teacher that catches you can start questioning you about whatever, and if you don’t talk or answer their questions; then you are now being insubordinate. You’re not exercising your 5th amendment rights, your breaking the rules and adding to your punishment.

Nance’s report also goes into the foolishness that kids are being arrested for and again, I have heard stories, I posted examples above  and I have YouTube.

For example, police officers stationed at schools have arrested students for texting, passing gas in class, violating the school dress code, stealing two dollars from a classmate, bringing a cell phone to class, arriving late to school, or telling classmates waiting in the school lunch line that he would “get them” if they ate all of the potatoes.

To be clear, these mishandlings are not limited only to high school and middle school students. In 2005, the police arrested five-year old Ja’eisha Scott after she threw a temper tantrum…

Yep… a five-year old:


Nance’s study finds that regular contact with SROs leads to more arrests, but not just for major things like weapons, or drugs. He means for everything! Your kid farted in class? Get the SRO. Your kid stole a Skittle from her friend? Call the SRO. You’re checking your Tindr account during Bio2? Page the SRO.

It is important to note, however, that when I tested my
models using different categorizations of offenses, those different categorizations did not affect the overall results of my empirical study—that a police officer’s weekly presence at a school significantly increases the odds that school officials will refer students to law enforcement for various offenses, including lower-level offenses.

He also states that other factors like state-statutes, the general level of crime in the school already, and the level of crime in the part of town that the school is in, were also considered; however no matter how the model was changed, generally students were referred to the SRO for low-level offenses.  So, basically, if there is an SRO in the school there is a significant threat that your child is going to become involved somehow with the criminal justice system in a place that they are supposed to be learning.

Now let’s look at the other guy, Matthew T. Theriot and his report:

Though contrary to statistics showing
that school crime nationally was declining, relatively rare, and usually
nonviolent, school shootings like those in Littleton, Colorado, and
Jonesboro, Arkansas, fed growing public fear of juvenile and school

Moreover, several criminologists and legal scholars have expressed
concerns that some strategies designed to make schools safer—
particularly the growing number of school resource officers (SROs)—
might actually criminalize student behavior and lead to a substantial
increase in the number of school-based arrests…


Wait… What?

Empirical evaluations of these various security strategies are limited,
have varying levels of methodological rigor, and often report conflicting findings…

This guy starts off agreeing with the other guy

“…some strategies designed to make schools safer—particularly the growing number of school resource officers (SROs)—
might actually criminalize student behavior and lead to a substantial
increase in the number of school-based arrests…”

And then says that Empirical evaluations of this are limited and because of all of the variables are often conflicting. So, basically all of the Empirical data can almost be thrown out; however what can be observed is that police in the schools leads to more arrests. Why, because this is a matter of record. It is historical data that can be measured. You just have to go by the arrest records. (Yes, juvenile records are sealed, but you still have a record of the arrest, just not the case files if I understand correctly) So, just looking at the number of arrests, Matt came up with this:

…the number of school-based arrests in one Ohio county increased from 1,237 in the
year 2000 to 1,727 in 2002. According to juvenile court officials, most of
these arrests were for minor offenses or unruly student behavior…

A similar escalation was reported in Miami-Dade County, Florida, where
the 2,345 school arrests in 2001 were a threefold increase over the
number of school arrests in 1999. The vast majority of these arrests
were for simple assaults and disorderly conduct.

So, police in schools equals arrests and police in schools also means that faculty will hand off discipline to the police vs. doing it themselves and then introduce your kid to the criminal justice system. They call this the School to Prison pipeline.

While more empirical research is needed to evaluate school-based
arrests made by SROs, there are practical and conceptual reasons to
suggest that SROs play an important role in introducing more and
more students to the juvenile justice system.

Even the guy’s report that the National Association of School Resource Officers used in their resources said that the more SROs are in our schools then the more kids are going to end up in jail. Yes, he did give the data that they quoted (sort of):

Regarding specific charges, though not significant when alone
(Model 1), Model 2 in Table 3 shows that having an SRO at school leads
to a 52.3 percent decrease in the rate of arrests involving assault
charges per one hundred students when controlling for the level of
economic disadvantage at school…

Similar patterns exist regarding arrests involving possession of a
weapon on school property. For this charge, when controlling for
economic disadvantage, schools with an SRO have a 72.9 percent
decrease in the rate of arrests per one hundred students.

If I understand this correctly, these numbers only impact schools that are impacted by economic issues. He actually mentions that the higher the disadvantage, the more impact it has.  So, SROs are not needed at all schools, but really at on a “as needed” basis and really, if the school is underfunded, couldn’t we worry about fixing that? Maybe if the school was a better environment, you wouldn’t need the SRO?


Finally, results presented in Table 5 show that school resource
officers dramatically increase the rate of arrests with disorderly
conduct charges with and without controlling for school poverty.
Specifically, without controlling for economic disadvantage at schools
(Model 1), having an SRO yields a 402.3 percent increase in this arrest
rate per one hundred students…Schools with a resource officer have a 122.1 percent increase in the rate of arrests involving other charges per one hundred students when
analyzed without other independent variables. When economic
disadvantage is added to the regression models (Models 2 and 3),
however, the impact of SROs ceases to be significant. Instead, school
poverty emerges as the only significant predictor

It look like these two guys are saying the same thing in both of these papers. SROs just increase the number of arrested kids and doesn’t really have an effect on deterring a lot of actual crime (Unless the school is already affected by crime). It appears to me that the school administrators have hired the police to carry out discipline, which many schools have their hands tied with, but the police are not there to discipline children. They are law enforcement, not school policy enforcement, and they need to be out looking for criminals and not kids trying to sneak a smoke in the bathroom. That’s what the faculty is for, to enforce school policy. If the kid is being an asshole, then call the parents, not the cops.

The United States incarcerates 2 million kids per year and 95% of these crimes are non-violent offenses. We imprison FIVE TIMES more children that any other nation. That’s right, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan and all of these other countries that we think are evil and backwards don’t imprison kids (or as many kids) like we do. We couldn’t even ratify a treaty that protects children’s rights, when the rest of the planet has! I know that a lot of this is stemming from a documentary that I just watched; however that’s what I love about these films. They provoke dare you to think. To look into, and to even get passionate about things that you normally wouldn’t. If you would have asked me a month ago about Zero-Tolerance Policies or School Resource Officers, I would have just shrugged. Now, I am angry for my friend’s kids, my nieces, and just for kids in general.

Kids don’t have it better these days. Kids have it pretty fucked up.




Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s