Are Schools Being Turned Into Prisons?
Rowena Davis, writing in the British, Independent, recounts a visit made to the school she attended as a child which now had a new electronic gated fence and cameras all over the building. “My old school is not unusual; our learning environments are undergoing an intensive process of fortification. Over 450 schools now have a dedicated police officer on-site and many have introduced screening wands and arches. Now powers for teachers to stop and search students without consent are used on a daily basis.” Ms. Davis wonders how these procedures influence the thinking of children — do they become more conscious that danger lurks in schools?
Ms. Davis says her interviews with parents uncovered some who interpret these precautions as evidence the school is unsafe. One mother noted: “How dangerous must this place be to need so much security? I couldn’t send my daughter there.” Ms. Davis believes the emphasis on security is turning many middle and upper class parents to avoid sending their children to public schools. “Ten years ago,” she notes, “my school was thinking about opening up A-level classes to adults in the local area. Now, no one is allowed on to school property without a police check. How much community do we want to sacrifice in the name of security?”
A major concern of Ms. Davis is that authoritarian practices are being introduced to schools without any evidence each school needs such procedures. A recent report from the British Crime Survey revealed crime rates are at the lowest level since its records began in 1981 but most people believe crime is rising to new heights. Ms. Davis concludes with a plea to rethink the shift toward police procedures in schools. “By fitting educational establishments out with gates and cameras we’re teaching our young people that criminal behavior is something normal we have to live with, rather than something unacceptable to be challenged.”
On a personal note, I recently spent three years working in poverty areas of Brooklyn. Several principals told me, while they supported procedures to tighten up security, they were concerned that police in New York City schools do not report to the principal and they often do not know what has happened to a student or why the child was taken to a police station. I recall chatting with a teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School. An Hispanic mother entered with her one year old child and the police motioned for the child to go through the security procedure without mom. We watched the anguished look on the mother’s face. The teacher turned to me and said: “when children enter this school, they are safe, when they leave, that’s when they are in danger.” Hopefully, we will not forget the wise words of this dedicated teacher.
Tags: United Kingdom
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