An article in the Guardian suggests that while they fight crime, they also criminalize normal school misbehavior. Kids are being ticketed and made to appear in court for minor offenses like throwing paper airplanes and using perfume in class. They can face fines, community service and even prison time.
How did the criminal justice system get involved with issues that used to be handled by parents and teachers?
For one thing, this article is really focused on Texas, which is famous for a somewhat hyperactive criminal justice system. These problems aren’t endemic in Massachusetts the way they are in the Lone Star state, where over 300,000 tickets were issued to schoolchildren by police last year.
What are the Texans policing? The Guardian explains:
Students are also regularly fined for “disorderly behaviour,” which includes playground scraps not serious enough to warrant an assault charge or for swearing or an offensive gesture. One teenage student was arrested and sent to court in Houston after he and his girlfriend poured milk on each other after they broke up. Nearly one third of tickets involve drugs or alcohol. Although a relatively high number of tickets — up to 20% in some school districts — involve charges over the use of weapons, mostly the weapons used were fists.
This approach sounds draconian, but does it work? Texas schools remain plagued by behavior problems. While some people involved in the system say the police protect schools and let teachers do their jobs, others see the police overreaching their boundaries and issuing criminal tickets to teens who’ve done little more than act up in class.
There’s a place for police in protecting students. But that place isn’t acting as armed hall monitors to make sure kids clean up their messes in the lunch room or don’t kick the lockers while running down a corridor. As one kid who got caught up in the system told the Guardian:
“We need police in school. In my school it can get physical and it can turn out very bad,” she says. “But they should stop issuing tickets. Only for physical stuff or bullying. Not what you do in class.”
What do you think? Have police in schools gone too far?
Start teaching manners at home: A Babble Guide for Babies to Tweens!