The American Civil Liberties Union does not want school police to be armed.
In an opinion piece published by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, ACLU of Pennsylvania senior policy advocate Harold Jordan calls for the disarming of school police. The article has been posted on the ACLU’s website and also tweeted out by the organization.
School police are currently not armed in Pittsburgh, and Jordan and the ACLU are just fine with that.
“Having officers patrol the hallways with firearms sends a negative message to students,” Jordan writes. “It makes many students feel that they are being treated like suspects. It can have an intimidating presence and can contribute to negative attitudes about police, in general.”
Jordan’s argument comes after the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers executive board adopted a resolution two years ago that argues for the arming of school police, as well as a recent Pittsburgh Post Gazette editorial that calls for the same.
Both the resolution and editorial note that Pittsburgh school police officers receive the same firearms training as municipal police and often are the first responders to dangerous situations. Having armed police in schools, they posit, would enhance school safety so long as proper oversight mechanisms were put in place.
However, Jordan argues that there “is no evidence that arming school officers increases overall safety or improves relationships within school communities.”
“Having an armed officer stationed in schools has neither prevented nor stopped “active shooter” incidents,” Jordan continues. “It did not at Columbine High School nor has it elsewhere. Thankfully, these tragic situations are still rare in schools.”
Jordan also notes that many other school districts, such as Philadelphia, do not have armed police in schools and instead “have focused on instituting policies and programs designed to reduce unnecessary student arrests, which have been cut in half in recent years.”
“Places of learning are not security zones or criminal justice institutions,” Jordan writes, “and they should not be staffed that way.”