After the 1999 Columbine school shootings in Colorado, school districts around the country beefed up campus police and security forces with the help of state and federal funds. The Los Angeles Times says that trend is starting to reverse in some cash-strapped districts in California and elsewhere that are trimming the size of their school security corps rather than cutting academic programs. California’s Oakland, Walnut Valley and Pomona school districts recently discontinued campus police departments to save money, relying instead on municipal or county law enforcement to patrol school grounds.
Reductions have prompted an outcry from parents afraid they will lead to rising campus violence. School districts contend that safety will not be jeopardized. Over the last year, districts in California, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Michigan, and other states have eliminated school police officer positions. Initial layoff numbers nationwide are in the hundreds but many more are expected this year, says the National Association of School Resource Officers, which represents 12,500 school police officers. Training, hours, patrol routes and funding for bullets, radios or vests are being cut in some places.
Educators expect security forces to shrink more because post-Columbine federal funding for more than 6,000 campuses is drying up and money under the federal Safe and Drug Free Schools initiative has been reduced. Paul Houston of the American Association of School Administrators said many districts are cutting police forces or considering such a move because school security has been eclipsed by efforts to boost academic performance. Unlike academic testing, security officers are not mandated by law. “No Child Left Behind is driving everything now,” Houston said, referring to the federal law that emphasizes school testing and accountability. School safety “is not a front-burner issue. Obviously, now people are responding to what the front-burner issue is now, which is test scores.”