There is little evidence beyond anecdotes that placing police officers in schools improves safety, reports the New York Times. Instead, youth advocates and judges are raising alarm about what they have seen in the schools with officers: a surge in criminal charges against children for misbehavior that many believe is better handled in the principal's office. Since the early 1990s, thousands of districts, often with federal subsidies, have paid local police agencies to provide armed “school resource officers” for high schools, middle schools and sometimes even elementary schools. Hundreds of additional districts, including those in Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, have created police forces of their own, employing thousands of sworn officers.
The NRA has recommended placing police officers or other armed guards in every school. The White House has proposed an increase in police officers based in schools. Yet the most striking impact of school police officers so far, critics say, has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for essentially nonviolent behavior — including scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers — that sends children into the criminal courts. One criminologist said the involvement of police has the effect of “pushing kids into the criminal system.”