The Agenda

The Downside of Cops in Schools

The goal of stationing uniformed police officers in K-12 schools is to deter or prevent violence. One wonders, however, if the presence of armed police in the schools might lead to the exacerbation of disciplinary problems, as turning to the police will increasingly become an option of first rather than last resort among school administrators faced with disobedient students. School discipline is an extremely difficult issue that is not accorded the attention it deserves, and I’m far from an expert. But Jamelle Bouie of The American Prospect gives us reason to worry about the “school-to-prison” pipeline.

My only word of caution is that while there are real concerns about the fairness and the efficacy of school discipline policies, there are K-12 schools in which the threat of violence is real and, in a few instances, pervasive. Bouie is absolutely right to be concerned about the unintended consequences of excessively punitive strategies. But I hope that policymakers give more thought to less punitive strategies that might be more effective at reducing the threat of violence, e.g., applying some of Mark Kleiman’s insights to improving classroom discipline. 

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

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