This year at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina, according to The Washington Post, there were “videos showing a police officer throwing a high school student across a classroom.” The details around the video are as follows: there was a disruptive student in a classroom, and when asked to leave, she wouldn’t. In turn, a deputy officer came in and physically removed the young lady. I’m positive we all have an opinion as to who was really to blame, and whether or not the officer was in the right, but that’s another topic for a different day. What I would like to focus on is the detrimental effects of having police officers in high schools, which ultimately creates a funnel from high schools to jails.
A lot of parents have a similar discussion with their children about the importance of education, and usually that discussion includes something to the effect that without an education, you could end up in jail, on the streets or dead. This discussion has probably frightened so many children to get their education in order to prevent these three life-altering ultimatums. But what parents might not have realized while giving these speeches is that there are now rules and laws implemented in schools that take the disciplinary actions out of the schools’ hands, and places them into the hands of the criminal justice system — a system that is built to turn children into adults.
The American Civil Liberties Union calls this the “School to Prison Pipeline.” Ultimately this pipeline is a result of schools’ zero-tolerance policies, which has lead to many schools bringing in police officers to help keep order. Because of this, when a student breaks a school rule or has minor school infractions, the school passes the issue to those police officers instead of handling it themselves, and is therefore now in the hands of the criminal justice system and the juvenile system. The end result is that teenagers are now being criminalized for problems that shouldn’t have went further than the principle or dean’s office.
Instead of teaching our children about the criminal justice system and teaching them to avoid negative contact with the justice system, those who have the ability to do so, such as the officers present in schools, are helping them get into trouble with the justice system. This is detrimental because these are our future leaders, educators and business owners, and now they are being treated as criminals, miscreants and trouble makers for teenage behavior. These labels are a hindrance because now a simple teenage act of rebellion that was nothing more than that has labeled them as unteachable and undesirable by not only colleges and universities, but by potential employers as well.
I do agree that it is the parent’s responsibility to ensure that their child behaves and is respectful in school and out of school. With that being said, a parent can only speak to and correct what they see as a parent. Once their child goes to school, they interact with tons of other children, and the teachers there are in contact with those children a lot more than some of these children’s working parents. These teachers see the behavior changes, they see and interact with these children on such a large scale. If teachers don’t feel comfortable to contact parents in order to bring the issues up that is why there is detention and in school suspension, that’s why there are teachers, security guards, counselors, deans, vice principals, and that is why there is a principle. These individuals should serve as a net to catch those students who are and may fall through the cracks, but to tell students who have tripped and not yet fallen that their menial actions have surpassed all of these barriers and reached the police, is a serious issue.
I personally don’t feel like it is a question of what is being fostered at home, because sometimes the image children create for their parents isn’t the same image that they create at school, but rather the question of who we allow to educate our children and the measures that they are taking to not only provide a safe place to educate, but to also prepare students for their futures. If rebellious high school students who don’t leave the classroom is so outlandish and difficult to where it surpassed not only the teachers, the security, school counselors, the deans, vice principle, and the principle and went right to the police officer not only do I question the actions of the police officer involved but I also question the leadership and actions of the school.
These are children and children will be children. They don’t deserve to have their futures negatively altered because of faulty school policies. The children today are our future tomorrow and when something goes wrong we as adults and individuals in higher education have to show that not only do we see them but that we support them through their teenage issues.
Collegian Columnist Chynna Fayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Chynna Fayne.