WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) ─ Following the mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, lawmakers pushed to get officers stationed at schools nationwide to protect students and educators.
But one lawmaker is changing course and is advocating against a police presence in schools because he believes they’re constructing a pipeline from schools to prisons.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Connecticut, recently introduced the “Counseling Not Criminalization Act” which would require federal funds be put toward counseling and social workers instead of law enforcement.
He said having officers at schools can hurt kids, especially students of color.
“We’ve got to get police officers out of schools,” Murphy said. “We’ve seen Black and Latino students be arrested in schools at a rate six times that of white students.”
Murphy said the police presence at schools increases systemic racism, and funding should be focused on a student’s emotional well being.
“If you really want to build safe schools, then you’ve got to have professionals there to deal with the trauma,” he said.
But removing police officers from schools also raises the question of school security and whether there are better ways to protect students.
Adam Skaggs of Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence said police shouldn’t be stationed in schools just to prevent mass shootings.
“When you talk about Parkland, there were armed security present and they weren’t able to respond,” Skaggs said. “Having police for that purpose is no panacea.”
“Let’s get children the services they need,” he continued. “Like professionals who can help diffuse conflicts before it may lead to violence.”
But Mo Canady of the National Association of School Resource Officers argues that having a police presence in schools goes much further than preventing mass shootings.
“Removing SRO’s would have a tremendous impact on school safety,” Canady said. “We do have many instances where active shooters or active assailant events have occurred in a school environment and, thank goodness, an SRO was there to stop it.”
Murphy said there are plenty of other ways to secure schools using technology and plainclothes officers.