Has the increased prevalence of school-based police decreased the willingness of teachers, administrators and school boards to address juvenile crime related issues that previously were addressed...

Has the increased prevalence of school-based police decreased the willingness of teachers, administrators and school boards to address juvenile crime related issues that previously were addressed “in-house” prior to schools deploying police?  Explain in detail why such a shift would occur.

Asked on by natralee

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lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I would say that for the most part, school-based police forces have caused teachers, administrators, and school boards to hand off responsibility for not only juvenile crime, but also the responsibility for all juvenile misbehavior.  I also think, though, that this trend has peaked and is about to reverse itself for several reasons. 

When schools districts began to adopt zero tolerance policies for student misbehavior, drugs, fighting, and weapons, for example, this was concomitant with the rise in school police forces.  There is a correlation, but like the chicken and egg, it is difficult to know which came first.  A zero tolerance policy implied, though, that there would be too many incidents for teachers to handle in the classroom or even to defer to administrators.  And there was a general feeling in society and within the school systems that these behaviors and crimes were taking up too much of teachers' instruction time and interfering with education.  Additionally, there were incidents of teachers being injured in the classroom for trying to control their students. 

There was also a kind of trickle-down effect, with zero tolerance for any student misbehavior, even that which was not criminal.  Once there was a tendency to call the police for criminal behavior, that tendency created an environment in which teachers were more likely to call upon the police for any misbehavior at all. Once you have a service available to you, you are inclined to use it. 

What has happened as a result of this policy is an incredible uptick in juvenile crime arrest and incarceration since the police have been called for every little thing that goes wrong in the classroom.  What might very well be misbehavior converts to charges like "resisting arrest," as we know very well from the media coverage of various arrests in the past few years. 

The tide is turning now because the public is becoming aware that these policies and others have created a nation with the highest incarceration rate in the world, an incarceration rate that falls most heavily on minorities, a rate that is reflected in juvenile statistics as well.  The cost of this incarceration has also caused the public to question the efficacy of this method of dealing with juvenile crime and low level crime in general.  Additionally, there is coming to be a realization that no one can be taught if he or she is incarcerated.  Teachers, administrators, and school boards are coming to understand that these zero tolerance policies and the heavy-handedness of school policing are not promoting the education of our youth, and some school boards are re-thinking these policies now.

Once you hand over the policing function to people who are not educators, the tendency is to cede classroom control for all misbehavior. This has led us to our current state, in which these policies are being reconsidered. 

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katwood001's profile pic

katwood001 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

Posted on

While the above answer is excellent, there are some important points that need to be considered.  First, because education is run on the state level, state policy will vary from state to state.  While a state such as Maryland might have allowed the in house officers to take over managing juvenile offenses, other states may allocate those duties to school administrators.  Second, in many states, the decision about how juvenile infractions are handled is determined at the district level.  For example, Utah and Nevada have policies in each district throughout their states that are unique from one another.  In smaller districts in both states, resource officers are spread between several schools, making it impossible for them to take over addressing all juvenile infractions.  Third, Resource officers are limited to fourth, fifth, and sixth amendment protections, restrictions, and SCOTUS protocols such as Miranda v. Arizona, just like any police officer; however, several Supreme Court decisions have given schools much more leniency in dealing with what would be considered traditional civil right violations.  

The first of these is New Jersey v. T.L.O.  It provides schools with greater latitude in the search and seizure of student property than the officers within the school can provide.  (Remember, resource officers are still police officers and are not considered employees of the school district.)  The Supreme Court, through this decision, ruled that school administrators do not need student permission, parent permission, a search warrant, or probable cause before conducting a search of a student's property.  This is because students have a reduced expectation of privacy in school.  Teachers and administrators have the right under Federal law to search if they have a "reasonable suspicion" of a broken rule or that the student is in the process of committing a crime.  This case also gives the school the right to seizure of property immediately without a warrant.  This is because the school is primarily responsible for the student's safety and must act more quickly than an officer can provide.    

Because of this ruling, a teacher or an administrator may search and take property from a student's backpack, purse, or car based on a gut feeling that something is wrong, while the resource officer must wait until he reaches the level of probable cause that would mandate a warrant.  Due to this alone, most searches that happen in the schools are run by the administration rather than the resource officer.  The officer may be present, but the principal or the vice principal are the individuals that conduct the search.  

The case, State v. Biancamano, gave the schools the right not to provide Miranda warnings before questioning students about possible criminal activity.  Through this decision, students can also wave their Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate themselves at a simple administrator request. A resource officer could never do this.  While the court acknowledged that both in T.L.O. and Biancamano the schools "should" notify the parents, the courts stated that it is not necessary. 

Schools are also able to mandate mandatory drug testing for sports and clubs through Vernonia School District v. Acton.  This decision made the statement that students surrender some privacy rights while at school and the school is responsible for providing a safe environment.  Once again, the resource officer cannot supervise the drug testing for sports teams.  Like their counterparts in the police stations, a blanket testing without a warrant would be considered unconstitutional.  Vernonia School District allows school officials to cross this line because of their status as In Loco Parentis.  Moreover, Board of Education v. Earls has given the schools this latitude for all extracurricular activities and clubs.

Because schools have greater latitude in conducting searches without violating student's rights to privacy, it is difficult to assume that schools have given in school resource officers all juvenile issues occurring within the school.  If this were the case, there would be a substantial increase in time between the suspicion of criminal activity and the execution of the desired protections being put in place.  This would result in school negligence in their duty to act as In Loco Parentis. 

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