Countdown Clocks

Countdown Clocks

Tweets by @JGibsonDem
Posts tagged "School Security"

Outrage over the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre may or may not spur any meaningful gun control laws, but you can bet your Crayolas that it will lead to more seven-year-olds getting handcuffed and hauled away to local police precincts.

You read that right.  Americans may disagree deeply about how easy it should be for a mentally ill convicted felon to purchase an AR-15, but when it comes to putting more law enforcement officers inside our schools, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and liberal Democrats like Senator Barbara Boxer are as one.  And when police (or “school resource officers” as these sheriff’s deputies are often known) spend time in a school, they often deal with disorder like proper cops — by slapping cuffs on the little perps and dragging them to the precinct.

Just ask the three nine-year-old girls and an eight-year-old boy who got into a fight at their Baltimore elementary school — then got arrested by real police.  Or Salecia Johnson, age six, cuffed and arrested for throwing a tantrum at her elementary school in Milledgeville, Georgia.  Or Wilson Reyes, a seven-year-old at a Bronx, New York, elementary school who last December 4th was cuffed, hauled away, and interrogated under suspicion of taking $5 from a classmate.  (Another kid later confessed.)

The last of these incidents made the cover of the New York Post, but the New York City Police Department still doesn’t understand what they did wrong — sure, the first-grader spent about 4 hours handcuffed in a detention room, but that’s “standard for juvenile arrest.”

Which is precisely the problem: standard juvenile misbehavior (a five-year-old pitching a fit, a 12-year-old doodling on a desk, a 13-year-old farting in class, a class clown running around the football field at halftime in a banana suit) is increasingly being treated like serious crime, resulting in handcuffs and arrest.  If you can’t understand why such “consistency” is crazy, please desist from reading the rest of this article.

It seems grotesque that the horrific slaughter of those 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut, will result in more children getting traumatized, but that’s exactly where we’re headed — with firm bipartisan support.

In his amazing post-Newtown speech last December, Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, called for armed guards in all schools — a demand widely hailed as jaw-droppingly nutty.  A few weeks later, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) proposed $50 million in federal grants to installmore metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and National Guard troops in schools, but made her pitch in the caring cadences of a Marin County Democrat.  And when President Obama ordered more police in schools (point 18 in his 23-point Executive Order responding to the Sandy Hook tragedy), it was all over.

So here’s an American reality of 2013: we will soon have more police in our schools, and more seven-year-olds like Joseph Andersons of PS 153 in Maspeth, New York, getting arrested.  (He got handcuffed after a meltdown when his Easter egg dye-job didn’t come out right.)

n fairness to the feds, similar kinds of local responses were already underway before the La Pierre-Boxer Axis of Tiny Handcuffs even arose.  Across the country, from Florida and Connecticut to TennesseeIndiana, and Arizona, despite tough budgetary times, municipal governments are now eagerly scrounging up the extra money for more metal detectors, surveillance cameras, and armed guards in schools.  (The same thing happened after the Columbine shooting 14 years ago.)  No one keeps national statistics, but arrests of the 10-and-under set do seem to be on the rise since Sandy Hook. A typical recent case: in January, a seven-year-old at a Connecticut school was arrested by the police for “threatening” a teacher.  Jitters are understandable after the trauma of Sandy Hook — but arresting a seven-year-old?

Truth be told, we were already well on our way to turning schools into carceral fortresses before the Sandy Hook slaughter even happened.  In fact, the great national infrastructure project of the past 20 years may be the “school-to-prison pipeline.”  After all, we are the nation that arrested Isamar Gonzalez for being in her high school early to meet with a teacher, then arrested her principal, Mark Federman, when he tried to intervene.

The stats speak as loudly as the anecdotes: of the Chicago School District’s 4,600 arrests in 2011, 86% were for misdemeanors. That school system spends $51.4 million on security guards, but only $3.5 million for college and career coaches.  And for every incident that makes the news, there are scores that don’t.  Despite a growing body of damning research by civil libertarians of the left and the right, including Annette Fuentes’s excellent book Lockdown High, political opposition to the school-to-prison pipeline has proven feeble or nonexistent.  Brooklyn State Senator Eric Adams, who represents one of the most liberal districts in the country, has staked out the civil libertarian outer limit by helpfully suggesting that Velcro handcuffs might be more suitable than metal ones for arresting young children.

The metal detector at the schoolhouse door is threatening to become as iconic an American symbol as baseball or type 2 diabetes.  Not that metal detectors in place were capable of preventing the massacre at Red Lake High School in Minnesota in 2005: young Jeffrey Weise just barged right in and shot six people dead; nor could the metal detectors at George Washington High Schoolin Manhattan or Paul Robeson High School in Brooklyn prevent teens from getting stabbed. Yet metal detectors and school police proliferate across the country. 

One state, however, truly leads the way. Self-satisfied Yankees have traditionally slandered the state of Mississippi as a jerkwater remnant of the past.  As for me, I say Mississippi represents the American future.  A new report by advocacy groups shows how the Hospitality State is leading the nation in cruel and draconian school over-policing.  Felony assault charges for throwing peanuts on the school bus!  Dress codes enforced by handcuffing a child to a railing for hours for the crime of not wearing a belt!  Cops escorting a five-year-old home for wearing the wrong color shoes! And constant arrests of kids for “disorderly conduct.”

Yes, the “Mississippi model” of non-union teachers plus “zero tolerance” discipline is the kind of schooling that some of the best and brightest among our education “reformers” have been touting — and what they are increasingly getting.  In fairness, Governor Rick Perry’s Texas is struggling with Mississippi for vanguard status, with cutting-edge surveillance of students and 300,000 misdemeanor arrests in 2010 for “crimes” like tossing a paper airplane.  And Massachusetts is a strong contender for third place.

But there are proven, demonstrably better, ways to do school discipline.  Ask Judge Steve Teske whose visionary common sense has brought down referrals to juvenile court by 70% in Clayton County, Georgia, by forcing schools to handle minor disciplinary infractions without handcuffs or police arrests.  (In the same period in that county, serious weapons charges, like bringing guns and knives to school, have fallen by 80% — further evidence that restraining a police presence actually makes schools safer.)

For another example of the right way to respond to school violence, look no further than Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, site of the 1999 massacre of 12 students and a teacher by two heavily armed students. In response, the school made the choice not to add a phalanx of armed guards. (Columbine actually had an armed school resource officer on duty the day of the killings, and he was unable to slow, let alone stop, the carnage.)

In fact, Columbine today remains an open campus with no metal detector at the front door.  Instead, its administration has worked hard to improve communications with the student body, trying to build an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect.  Columbine parents have supported this approach for a simple reason: they don’t want their children treated like criminals.  Because Littleton, Colorado, is a largely affluent community with political muscle, they’ve been able to resist the avalanche of punitive measures that have been generated by every school massacre since the one that took place at theirs.

H/T: AlterNet

President Obama unveiled his policy proposals for reducing gun violence on Wednesday. Here were the 10 major items he’s pushing:

1) Require criminal background checks for all gun sales.
2) Take four executive actions to ensure information on dangerous individuals is available to the background check system.
3) Reinstate and strengthen the assault weapons ban.
4) Restore the 10-round limit on ammunition magazines.
5) Protect police by finishing the job of getting rid of armor-piercing bullets.
6) Give law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crime.
7) End the freeze on gun violence research.
8) Make our schools safer with more school resource officers and school counselors, safer climates, and better emergency response plans.
9) Help ensure that young people get the mental health treatment they need.
10) Ensure health insurance plans cover mental health benefits.

The White House also announced 23 executive actions on guns and gun violence that Obama pledged to take:

1. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
2. Address unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
3. Improve incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
4. Direct the Attorney General to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
5. Propose rulemaking to give law enforcement the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
6. Publish a letter from ATF to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
7. Launch a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
8. Review safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
9. Issue a Presidential Memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
10. Release a DOJ report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and make it widely available to law enforcement.
11. Nominate an ATF director.
12. Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations.
13. Maximize enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
14. Issue a Presidential Memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.
15. Direct the Attorney General to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenge the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
16. Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
17. Release a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
18. Provide incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
19. Develop model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
20. Release a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
21. Finalize regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within ACA exchanges.
22. Commit to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
23. Launch a national dialogue led by Secretaries Sebelius and Duncan on mental health.

H/T: Washington Post

The National Rifle Association is amping up the political rhetoric in advance of President Obama’s gun violence prevention announcement scheduled for Wednesday. On Tuesday, the NRA posted a video on its website accusing the president of being “an elitist hypocrite” because his daughters have armed guards at school. CNN reported Tuesday night that the video “is running on the Sportsman Channel, a cable network focused on outdoors programming such as hunting and fishing.”

The NRA has called on Congress to put armed police in every public school in the nation following the Newtown shooting, a move rejected by many teacher groups. 

“Are the president’s kids more important than yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when his kids are protected by armed guards at their school?” the NRA ad’s narration reads. “Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security.”

The post-1977 NRA = demented psychos.

H/T: Evan McMorris-Santoro at TPM