Students, Security, and Race
Jason P. Nance
University of Florida Levin College of Law
February 8, 2013
Emory Law Journal, Forthcoming
In the wake of the terrible shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, our nation has turned its focus to school security. For example, several states have passed or are considering passing legislation that will provide funding to schools for security equipment and law enforcement officers. Strict security measures in schools are certainly not new. In response to prior acts of school violence, many public schools for years have relied on metal detectors, random sweeps, locked gates, surveillance cameras, and law enforcement officers to promote school safety. Before policymakers and school officials invest more money in strict security measures, this Article provides additional factors that should be considered.
First, drawing on recent, restricted data from the U.S. Department of Education, this Article presents an original empirical analysis revealing that low-income students and minority students are much more likely to experience intense, prison-like conditions than other students, even when taking into account neighborhood crime, school crime, and school disorder. These findings raise concerns that such inequalities may continue or worsen as policymakers provide additional funding for security measures. Second, this Article argues that strict security measures do not support long-term solutions needed to effectively prevent school violence. Indeed, strict security measures exacerbate the underlying problems by creating barriers of adversity and mistrust between students and educators.
Further, this Article offers recommendations to address the disproportionate use of security measures on low-income and minority students and to curb violence more effectively. It urges school officials and policymakers to support programs that build trust and collective responsibility instead of providing grants for strict security measures. Additionally, it recommends that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights play a more active role in addressing the disproportionate use of strict security measures on minority students. Finally, this Article concludes by proposing an alternative test that courts should apply to evaluate students’ Fourth Amendment rights.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 47
Keywords: school security, Fourth Amendment, education law, student searches, suspicionless searches, search and seizure, school law, Newtown, metal detectors, school resource officers
JEL Classification: I20, I28, K39Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 10, 2013 ; Last revised: March 15, 2013
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