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April 19, 2013

Questions raised about more police presence in schools

Some worry that more students will enter justice system without merit

(Continued)

INDIANAPOLIS —

State Sen. Pete Miller, a Republican from Avon who authored Senate Bill 1, was glad to see the legislation return to its original intent. Miller noted his bill includes a 40-hour training requirement in dealing with students and school facilities for police officers hired to work as school resource officers. 

“That’s important part of the legislation,” Miller said. 

He also said the amendment that gives school resource officers the power to arrest students for resisting law enforcement will be one of the issues that will be taken up by a House-Senate conference committee that has to negotiate the final language of Senate Bill 1. 

Similar concerns about the affect of increased police presence in schools have been voiced by juvenile court judges in other states, who’ve seen a surge in arrests of students for nonviolent behavior that, in the past, would have been handled by school discipline policies. In January, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges released a statement warning about unintended consequences of putting more armed police in schools. 

The judges noted the accompanying sharp rise in the number of students arrested or given criminal citations at schools each year for relatively minor offenses. And they noted recent studies that show black and Hispanic students and those with disabilities are disproportionately affected.

“The influx of police in schools has been one of the main contributors to the growing number of children funneled into this [criminal justice] pipeline,” their statement said. “Research shows that aggressive security measures produce alienation and mistrust among students which, in turn, can disrupt the learning environment. 

“Such restrictive environments may actually lead to violence, thus jeopardizing, instead of promoting, school safety.” 

Andrew Cullen, legislative liaison for the Indiana Public Defender Council, said schools that employ police as school resource officers need to develop policies that differentiate security issues from discipline issues. 

“We need to make sure those resource officers are in schools to protect and serve the children of Indiana,” Cullen said. “And not to harass and arrest them for childish behavior.”

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