Nationwide police presence in schools harmful to students

Gracie Hammond, Guest Columnist

Over the past decade, an alarming trend has appeared in schools nationwide. Nationwide: trend of strict zero tolerance policies and negligence to the youth of the American public school system. More and more students find themselves suspended, expelled or in some cases referred to law enforcement for the most minor of offenses. This is known as the School to Prison Pipeline.

The term “School to Prison Pipeline” is used to describe the quickly growing trend of the use of harsh punishment on students and its relation to the criminal justice system. Due to zero tolerance policies, students are expelled or suspended more often than being issued a punishment that puts effort towards keeping them in school.

Though the zero tolerance policies are made with good intentions of keeping schools safe, they more often cause negative results. A study by the American Civil Liberties Union claims that students that get suspended or expelled for violations are up to three times more likely to make contact with the juvenile justice system the next year. Another study by the American Psychological Association reveals that the policies often coincide with high dropout rates and cause increased instances of the very same problem issues. The facts don’t lie. There is a serious problem with how schools handle behavior.

Another troubling aspect of the pipeline is that it disproportionately affects students of color and students with disabilities. A report by Dignity in Schools shows that African American students are three and a half times more likely, Latino students twice as likely, and American Indian students one and a half times more likely to be expelled than white students. Additionally, students with disabilities are twice as likely to be expelled for the same offense as a student without disabilities. The statistics paint a disturbing picture of the inequality and oversight within the disciplinary system in schools.

Despite the good intentions of the policies, they ultimately do more harm. Problematic student behavior should be handled in a way that puts effort towards keeping students in school rather than immediately removing them and should also be handled the same with all students despite race or disability.