Friday, May 3, 2013

When School Resource Officers Are Idle

A 16-year-old girl was expelled and charged with possession and discharge of a weapon for bringing the kind of science project in to school that used to be done routinely.  This happened in Florida, where you may be able to shoot to kill anyone on the street you find suspicious, but a water bottle experiment that shows expansion to bursting is considered enough of a deadly weapon that this young woman's life may be in tatters.

A good student, a good kid, never been in trouble -- that's what teachers, principal and parents say about her.  But it appears that in schools in Florida, it is the resource officer that decides the fate of a student who's gotten into trouble.

When we caved to wacko Wayne LaPierre's pressured sales pitch on having an officer in every school, there are some aspects of the situation in the real world that our lawmakers just didn't think through.

What, exactly, are the duties of this armed officer going to be?  Given that there are not problems with weapons in most of the schools in the country, we are appointing a full-time police officer to patrol a small unusually well protected area full-time.  Have I mentioned that they would be armed?  In middle and high schools, the potential for abuse of that power is extraordinary.  Kids acting suspicious?  Walk through a middle school and see how many kids look suspicious to you.  Especially if it's your job to route out suspicious looking kids.

And what about the wise guys?  Tell me you don't believe that kids will make cracks about guns and weapons, maybe just to see what will happen, maybe even for the purpose of getting suspended for a few days.

Then there are the kids that are fearful to begin with.  This is not like having an officer on the street, which I think can be imposing enough depending on the locale.  A cop patrolling the hall in a usually chaotic environment is not going to lend to a feeling of security.

If I were a good cop given this job, I might feel frustrated or guilty that, for the most part, I am wasting my time.  I might start to look a little more closely at the behavior of those who are louder, or travel in larger groups, or perhaps just seem to be hiding something.  I'll search some of those kids, and maybe even find drugs at some point.  Or maybe not.  I'll be keeping my eyes open for kids that are "breaking the rules," whether that means running through the corridor, being late to class, or letting loose with an obscenity.

And maybe, if a science project goes awry, I will assume it must be a terrorist attack, because it is my job to protect this school from an attack.  And seen in that light, that is what it will become.

By putting police officers in schools, we have taken the control out of the hands of those whose life work has been educating, and guiding, our children, and put that control into the hands of law enforcement, whose job it is to enforce laws.

Isn't it odd that those same legislators who are most paranoid about the government taking away our freedom are so willing to take it away from our children?

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