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Update: Teachers/Unions Concerned About Police Leaving Schools

One of the big stories of the week is the Dignity In Schools campaign launch calling for the removal of most police officers from public schools. 

So far, the news has been covered by CPI (Coalition calls for end of police presence in schools), Huffington Post (Over 100 Education Groups Want To Kick Cops Out Of Schools), and Education Week (Get Police Out of Schools, Coalition of Student, Parent Groups Says).

According to the Huffington Post, the new recommendations are "the strongest that DSC member organizations ― groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund ― have ever made collectively on the issue of school policing." The campaign is active in 27 states and claims 100 city and state member groups including the NAACP LDEF.

Earlier this month, the Obama administration called for districts to “responsibly incorporate” officers into the learning environment -- but stopped short of a ban. 

What's been left out so far is the tension between teachers' understandable concerns about classroom safety and order and advocates' understandable concerns about over-policing of schools.

According to EdWeek, the National Association of School Resource Officers "largely agreed with the federal guidance" but has not so far as I know endorsed the #CounselorsNotCops campaign. Nor has the NEA or AFT commented on the campaign. 

Conflicting views over the benefits of police in schools came up in Chicago in April, when a Chicago Teachers Union-organized protest event included a #BlackLivesMatter calling for the removal of the police from city schools.  

As reporting by DNAInfo ('F The Police' Speaker At Teacher Rally Not With CPS, But Union Takes Heat), activist Page May slammed the Chicago police and anyone associated with them. Just before her, union head Karen Lewis had praised the police.

"The CTU keeps acting like they are on our side, but then Karen Lewis refuses to say cops need to get out of schools," May said in the DNAInfo story. "Until [the Chicago Teachers Union] come out explicitly opposed to cops in schools, I don't think we are fighting on the same side."

The Seattle Times has also reported about the challenges some schools and districts have found in trying to rethink their school discipline policies. One story (Highline district struggles with fallout after limiting student suspensions), focusing on the related issue of school suspensions, reports that roughly 200 teachers have left the district in the past few months, many of them in reaction to the "elimination" of out of school suspensions, and the local teachers union president has flagged the turnover as a sign of major trouble looming. 

Some social justice advocacy groups like the NAACP and #BlackLivesMatter may find common cause with classroom teachers and unions over prioritizing neighborhood schools and limiting "privatization" of education, but the Dignity In Schools campaign highlights the tensions that quickly emerge in other areas.

For practical and political reasons, classroom teachers and their unions are likely to be extremely reluctant about endorsing a move to remove police officers from schools.

Why so? Fear is one obvious reason. (Here's a cameraphone video said to be depicting a teacher and student fighting in a Philadelphia school.) At a more ideological level, teachers unions and police unions often try to work together at the local level, and as the Chicago incident reveals they can be reluctant to disagree publicly. 

Still, there's much we don't know. What do the NEA, AFT, and National Association of School Resource Officers have to say about the Dignity In Schools campaign? What does the Obama administration say? And what about Clinton and Trump?

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