Donna St. George in today’s Washington Post reports:
Police will be posted in all 25 Montgomery County high schools next fall as county leaders bolstered the schools’ security force in a final budget approved last week.
The budget for the year that begins July 1 includes 10 new school resource officers (SROs), who will join 12 school police officers in place and three supported by the cities of Rockville and Gaithersburg and the county sheriff’s department.
This will be expensive, of course, but the PTA backed it, and competing Fairfax and Loudoun counties put SROs not only in high schools but even in middle schools. Prize for the least convincing argument goes to PTA officer Susan Burkinshaw:
“What small town of 3,000 people doesn’t have an officer in it?” Burkinshaw asked. “To not have an officer on premises to help manage what is like a small city is ludicrous.”
Of course a small town of 3,000 will face a range of police challenges that schools don’t, including highway accidents and ticketing, closing time at the bar, domestic incidents and so forth. For that matter, countless towns of 3,000, and often much larger, are served by county sheriff’s departments or cooperative neighboring jurisdictions who may be able to respond in minutes.
The Post does briefly acknowledge that expense aside, there are critics who believe introducing police officers into schools, particularly when the schools have had little or no record of violence or other danger to students, does more harm than good:
Nationally, civil rights advocates say a police presence in schools often leads to a spike in law enforcement referrals and arrests on campus for misconduct that would typically be handled by a principal. Montgomery officials say their program will not result in the criminalizing of minor school misbehavior.
With a focus on prevention and intervention, “I think it’s going to mean more compassion for kids,” [council president Craig] Rice said.
Because when police with handcuffs and nightsticks become a resource for locker checks and petty disciplinary offenses, compassion is what we have come to expect, right?
The Sentencing Project has a fact sheet, “The Facts About Added Dangers of Police in Schools,” that I hope folks in Montgomery County will take a look at. At least that way they can’t say they weren’t warned.