Schoolground or Police State?

Domestic Militarization -- The Wars At Home

By Nicole Davis Dec 10, 1999

What role do cops have in kids’ education? In September 1998, the New York City Department of Education voted to turn control of public school safety over to the NYPD. The resolution comes just one year after a failed attempt by the NYPD to add high school yearbook photos to their mugshot collection. According to Jane Bai, executive director of the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence in New York City, "School safety officers are being trained in racial profiling and observation techniques. They are being trained to meet the needs of the criminal justice system, not the educational system."

How ubiquitous is the problem of cops in schools? In Drew, Mississippi, a rural town of 8,000 people, of whom 80 percent are black, there are reports of 10-year-old children being taken from school to the State Department of Corrections for such "crimes" as talking back to teachers. Police in the schools "add to the criminalization of our children," says Johnnie Johnson, a staff person with the Drew Community Voters League. "Children are not allowed to make mistakes as they grow up."

Not only are police officers replacing guidance counselors, in some places police academies are also replacing high schools. In 1996, the Los Angeles Unified School District opened its doors to the first of five Junior Police Academy Magnet Schools. With state-of-the-art computer facilities, an obstacle course modeled after the LAPD’s own, weight rooms, a forensic science lab, and some LAPD officers as teachers, these academies provide "the missing ingredient in most schools…the relevance between school, work, and career." Located in districts that are 70 to 95 percent people of color, these high schools boast "a rigorous four year academic program that provides discipline and physical training with an emphasis on law enforcement." One way or another, if you’re young, poor, and of color, cops will find a way into your classroom.