In Texas, hundreds of thousands of students are winding up in court for committing very serious offenses such as cursing or farting in class. Some of these so-called dangerous criminals (also known as teenagers) will face arrest and even incarceration, like the honors student who spent a night in jail for skipping class, or the 12-year-old who was arrested for spraying perfume on her neck. These cases have at least one thing in common in that they were carried out by special police officers walking a controversial beat: the hallways and classrooms of public schools.
As political pressure from both sides of the aisle mounts to increase police presence in American schools, evidence suggests adding armed guards will only thrust more disadvantaged youth into the criminal justice system. Civil rights groups say policing our schools will further the institutionalization of what’s known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”
To understand the potential consequences of putting police inside public schools, we can take a look at Texas, where students face one of the most robust school-to-prison pipelines in the country. According to the youth advocacy group Texas Appleseed, school officers issued 300,000 criminal citations to students in 2010, some handed to children as young as six years old.
As the New York Times notes, Texas Appleseed and a local NAACP chapter filed a complaint in February against a school district with a particular knack for criminalizing children, especially minorities. The complaint says Bryan Independent School District of Texas’ Brazos County, disproportionately ticketed black students for misdemeanors, potentially violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Black students accounted for 46 percent of tickets issued in 2011 to 2012, despite only making up 21 percent of the student body.