What came first, the chicken or the egg? In this age-old saying, the question implies that there cannot be a chicken, without having been hatched in an egg first. But there also cannot be an egg, without a chicken laying it. The same question can be applied to school cops. Which came first, school cops or school violence? It can be argued that school cops are a response to student violence. However, it can also be argued that student violence is a result of school cop presence. This debate is a very controversial issue at the moment and is extremely relevant to our schools today.
One of the earliest records of a school shooting took place in the 1760’s in Pennsylvania. A group of four Native Americans shot their teacher and 9 other classmates in their small schoolhouse. Only 3 children survived. Fast forward nearly a century without any recorded school shootings. In the 19th century, there were around 50 school shootings. From 1900-1980, there were around 130 school shootings. However, during the 1980’s, Zero Tolerance policies were applied to student’s behavior after heightened concern over youth violence. The “school safety” division of many large cities police departments began to grow, creating a criminalization of student conduct. Since 1980-2014, there have been around 230 school shootings. This number has almost doubled from 130 shootings, but in less than half the time.
Born and raised in NYC, and having gone to public school all my life, I had some interactions with school cops, however very little. Majority of my experiences had been friendly. We knew all of the cops by name, and spent most of the time chatting about the weekend plans and if they would be at the sports game that evening. Therefore I was surprised to learn that in fact, NYPD had taken over public school security in 1998. They have 5,000 officers in the NYPD’s “School Safety Division”, which is larger than all but three other cities’ entire police forces. In 2012, 95% of the 882 arrests made by the NYPD School Safety Division were Black or Latin@ students. In addition, 63% of the summonses were for “disorderly conduct”, a vague term to describe someone with the intent to cause public annoyance or recklessly creating a risk.