Handcuff Students Who Disregard the Law, Not Educators

Posted by on May 3, 2010

Bob Rinearson brings unique perspectives as a guest columnist for the News Sentinel newspaper in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  While Bob’s current position is supervisor of safety and student management in the local school district, he also brings a background in working with gangs and the juvenile justice system in his 31 years of working with at-risk youth.

Bob’s column published online last Friday (April 30) summarized his well-detailed opinion on proposed efforts to regulate police in schools quite clearly: 

Let’s handcuff those students who disregard the law, not educators

Having worked with Bob while consulting for the Fort Wayne Community Schools, I learned quickly that he is a no-nonsense, pull-no-punches type of a guy.  One has to be that way to be successful in dealing with some of the at-risk kids Bob has dedicated his career to serving.

It is no surprise to see Bob tackling an American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) white paper entitled, “Policing Schools.”  This white paper, in my opinion and that of others including Bob Rinearson, is put forth to propose steps for regulating and limiting the role of school-based police officers in America’s schools. 

In his column, Bob describes his take on the publication:

“It has less to do with maintaining safety in our schools and the right of the victims of school crime, and more to do with restricting the police and school administrators from doing their jobs and imposing restrictions on the type of incidents that may get a child arrested for criminal behavior committed on school grounds.”

As Bob points out in his column, the School Resource Officer (SRO) model calls for school-based police officers to serve three roles:  Law enforcement officer, law-related counselor, and law-related educator.  Contrary to the ACLU’s portrayal, it has been my experience that SROs do more prevention-oriented work than “cuff’em and stuff’em” type functions claimed by the ACLU.

In fact, Bob rightfully makes this point about SRO program: “Despite the image the ACLU tries to portray, the program in most educators’ minds is that it has been a huge success.”

The ACLU’s white paper is one piece of a growing movement and recently intensified campaign by civil rights advocates to hijack school safety by supporting legislation designed to influence what local school administrators and police officers can and cannot do in administering discipline and law enforcement at schools.  I’ll take on this legislation, and some additional points on the ACLU white paper, in a separate post in an upcoming special series.

In over 25 years of working in education, I have not seen school administrators and SROs who come to work excited about the potential opportunity to suspend, expel, and/or arrest students at school.  In fact, I’d say most adults I have met who are working with school children skew more to the side of leniency than to the side of being excessively firm or harsh.

Bob’s bottom line is that by playing games of “political correctness” with school-based policing, we are not preparing kids for the real world: 

“If one of the more important quests is for schools to prepare our children for the rigors of life, then learning the laws and the consequences of breaking them should be right there along with math and science.

The handcuffs belong on those who disregard the law. Let’s not handcuff our educators any more than they already are.”

Read Bob’s full column at Let’s handcuff those students who disregard the law, not educators and then let me know: “What say you?”

Ken Trump

Visit School Security Blog at:  http://www.schoolsecurityblog.com

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