The End of School Policing
109 California Law Review 1443 (2021)
64 Pages Posted: 28 Oct 2021
Date Written: March 14, 2021
Police officers have become permanent fixtures in public schools. The sharp increase in the number of school police officers over the last twenty years has generated a substantial body of critical legal scholarship. Critics question whether police make students safer. They argue that any safety benefits must be weighed against the significant role the police play in perpetuating a school-to-prison pipeline that funnels Black and Brown students and students with disabilities out of schools and into courts, jails, and prisons. In suggesting remedies for this problem, commentators have proposed several regulatory fixes. These include changes to the standards for evaluating students’ claims of constitutional rights violations, specialized police trainings, and voluntary agreements between law enforcement agencies and school districts that circumscribe the role of school police. Thus far, however, legal scholars have focused primarily on the “how” of school policing, eschewing the logically prior normative question of whether there should be police in schools at all. This Article takes up that question, and it argues that education policymakers should consider removal—rather than only regulation— of school police. In so doing, it makes three primary contributions to school-policing scholarship. First, it shifts the focus away from the safety debates that preoccupy scholars and policymakers, arguing that financial incentives for schools, security-theater concerns for administrators, and legitimacy-building interests of law enforcement equally explain school policing’s rise. Second, using critiques of community policing as an analytical framework, it illuminates a range of school-governance and pedagogical harms from school policing that exist separate from and antecedent to policing’s role in fueling the school-to-prison pipeline. Third, it puts grassroots movements against school policing in conversation with the prison abolitionist project and argues that insights from both should inform school-safety policymaking.
Keywords: race, education, policing
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