Police in Schools a ‘terribly flawed idea’

5 February 2018

‘Police in Schools’ a terribly flawed idea

The Police Accountability Project  has called the State Opposition Police in Schools Program a ‘terribly flawed and outmoded’ concept.

“It generates what is known as a ‘schools-to-prison pipeline”, Anthony Kelly, Executive Officer of the Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre said today.

“When police are embedded in school systems and in classrooms, common student behavioural issues are more likely to prompt criminal responses. Young people who are vulnerable, at risk or from a marginalised backgrounds, or, when racial bias comes into play, are of a particular ethnicity, are more likely to be treated as criminals rather than get the support they need.” Mr Kelly stated.

Numerous studies in the US have highlighted the dangers of ‘police in schools’ programs that exacerbate the already intensive and almost daily police contact that young people from marginalized or vulnerable backgrounds face.

In one US example from Virginia, a 4-year-old with ADHD threw a temper tantrum in his prekindergarten classroom —allegedly throwing blocks and hitting and kicking his educators—the school’s principal, according to reports, summoned a deputy assigned to the school, who then handcuffed the child and transported in a squad car to the sheriff’s office. Other studies show clearly that school discipline is meted out along racial lines with 70% of school students who are arrested at schools being Black or Latino and Black students being 3.5 times more likely to be suspended.

“Young people are stopped by police on an almost daily basis” says Mr Kelly. “Then they play soccer with police after school. Then they get stopped again by a patrol car on the way back home from their basketball club which might also be run by police. Police contact is a routine, and often frustrating experience for young people who don’t want to be treated like they are criminals.”

“To even announce a ‘Police in Schools’ program in the context of a ‘law and order’ /’ tough on crime’ initiative is deeply concerning and demonstrates that its proponents don’t really understand the impact of programs like this,’ said Mr Kelly

‘Police do not “inculcate young people with the moral and ethical standards that lead them to becoming good and law abiding citizens.” as espoused by former Chief Commissioner Kel Glare.

“Teachers do that.”  said Mr Kelly.

“Police officers, despite better training around youth development these days, have a tendency to revert to the old ‘scare-them straight’ approach with young people’ which, as every teacher knows, does not work at all.”

“Building legitimacy and gaining respect from young people is vital for sound policing.  If Victoria Police want to build positive relationships with young people then eliminating discriminatory and intrusive stop and search practices is the place to start.”

Important Background resources:

Fact Sheet: How bad is the Schools to Prison Pipeline?

Hard Lessons: Report by the ACLU (PDF)

School to Prison Pipeline

The More Things Change The More They Stay The Same: Report by the Peer Advoacy Outreach Project on Racial Profiling across Melbourne, Flemington Kensington Community Legal Centre, (July 2015)

Final Report on How Demographic Factors Shaping Young People’s Experiences with and Attitudes toward the Police Flemington and Kensington Community Legal Centre (March 2011)

Opposition plan to put police in ‘at risk’ Victorian high schools, The Age, Henrietta Cook, 5 February 2018

Police officers to be placed in ‘high-risk’ Victorian secondary schools under Coalition election plan, ABC News, Richard Willingham, 5 February 2018

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From the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

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