In the wake of George Floyd’s killing calls to defund the police gained traction and school districts, including in Minneapolis, announced they were going to get police out of schools.
Yet, as often happens these various ideas ran into trouble upon contact with real life. Some school officials said they couldn’t just remove police because of security concerns, others announced changes that fell short of the defund demands. Given the wide range of circumstances facing American schools local context does matter so some variation is hardly surprising. But it’s also a complicated issue. (Some background, Evan Osnos talks with James Clyburn about that in this Biden profile and people’s views may not be what you read on Twitter.)
But one concern – I mention it here – among those who would like to see some change was that the classic bureaucratic move of changing out employees for contractors or old wine/ new bottles would be a possible response. In other words, toss cops out, reap some good headlines, but then bring in replacements who act a lot like the police did.
In The 74 Mark Keierleber examines the evidence, including some new documents, that indicate this is what’s happening in Minneapolis. He indicated this was going on back in August. It’s important reporting .Part of the article just highlights that school districts are often really bad at hiring, but part of it indicates just how much cosmetic rather than cultural changes are afoot in some places.
Some advocates argue that uniformed police in schools, regardless of training or anything else, are at best corrosive to school culture and at worst incompatible with education given that they act with force of law and within certain parameters. Even if you’re not in that camp or the defund camp there is plenty of reason to be concerned about the role of police in schools, and plenty of evidence, so this is an important issue to watch.
Early in the summer I wrote,
If your go-to discipline move is to call the police on young children, then focusing on whether the cops are school-based or a phone call away misses the broader problem: the absence of quality discipline strategies and a mindset that treats kids as if they were criminals.
That issue, culture, still seems to me more important than rigid approaches or what person is in what role. And might be getting lost in the shuffle?