Am I Right?

How to live ethically

Flatulence, School Discipline and Armed Guards

The president's call for more armed guards in school is a bad idea

It’s a part of adolescent humor. But if you fart in a Mississippi school, it’s no joke. You may be arrested.

Arresting school children for wearing the wrong shoes, not having a belt, using vulgar language and—yes—flatulence came to light when the Department of Justice brought suit against the city of Meridian, the Lauderdale County Youth Court and other defendants.

Forget the dreaded vice-principal’s office and detention. In Meridian and elsewhere in the state, the school calls the police who often handcuff the students and automatically arrest them.

Juveniles routinely wound up in jail. The DOJ charges that there is “a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct through which they routinely and systematically arrest and incarcerate children, including for minor school rule infractions, without even the most basic procedural safeguards, and in violation of these children's constitutional rights.” http://www.justice.gov/crt/about/spl/documents/meridian_complaint...

Punishment for minor infractions is severe and disproportionate. Furthermore, it isn’t warranted by public safety concerns. The schools, the police, the courts and the justices all are over-reacting.

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Meridian isn’t alone, the DOJ asserts. Such punishment is part of a pattern found through Mississippi, says the DOJ.

This latest report comes at the same time that the NRA and others propose arming guards in schools as a way of protecting children. A CBS/New York Times survey reports that 74 percent polled favored such action. And some schools in Utah, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Pennsylvania have employed armed guards since the Newtown massacre.

Amongst President Obama’s proposals for gun control is his call for more armed guards in schools. The National Parent Teachers Organization says this proposal “comes as a disappointment.” I think they are right and here is why:

Mississippi isn’t alone in arresting juveniles in schools. One report states that schools with armed guards have nearly five times the rate of arrests for disorderly conduct, this even after controlling for poverty.

If schools are so skittish as to arrest students for flatulence, it isn’t unreasonable to think that putting guns in the hands of school guards will make things worse. Imagine the scene: a student is called out for not following the rules, a school guard is summoned, the student talks back, the guard tells the student to keep quiet. And there you go, one thing leading to another.

With thousands of armed guards in schools, does anyone think that some guard, somewhere won’t use his gun when confronted with an unruly teenager? Won’t there be a guard somewhere who will be too quick to shoot when an unknown adult shows up at the school door?

The other side of the argument is that armed guards will prevent another Newtown. But the evidence isn’t there to support the claim. Research from the nonprofit Justice Policy Institute finds no evidence that increased armed guards at schools as led to greater student safety. http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/scho...

There need to be more studies as to the best way to protect our children. This is a public health issue and like other health matters should be based on the best evidence available. Unfortunately, until now Congress has barred any research on the connection between guns and public safety. One part of the president’s gun regulation initiative is to re-start such research. That part of his proposal that everyone can support, everyone, that is, who is reasonable and thinks that facts matter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arthur Dobrin, D.S.W., teaches applied ethics at Hofstra University. He is the author, coauthor, and editor of more than twenty books.

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