We know firsthand that armed guards in schools do not necessarily catch early indicators of mental health needs, identify underlying causes of violence, or use the resources of law enforcement in an effective way. In Denver, we saw school resource officers being used to write tickets for minor student misbehavior that could have been handled through restorative justice or a trip to the principal's office.
School resource officers and armed guards rarely encounter real crime in schools. National data shows schools are still the safest place for children. Absent any real law enforcement role, police tend to become the enforcers of the harsh "zero tolerance" policies which were implemented by school districts following the Columbine tragedy.
Placing armed personnel in schools actually undermines a positive learning environment, is costly, and can have unintended consequences for large numbers of students. These consequences can be severe for young people, with police records following them when they apply for college, the military or a job. African-American and Latino children are disproportionately impacted by these policies.
To reduce violence and create safe, quality schools, we should promote strategies that foster care, connectedness and support. That's why Padres y Jovenes Unidos, with support from the Advancement Project, helped craft a historic agreement between the Denver Police Department and Denver Public Schools. The Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) clarifies the limited role of police in schools; provides due process protections for students and parents; requires community input on the policing process; and mandates training prior to police being assigned to schools. Unlike some memorandums of understandings that a handful of school districts and police departments have signed, this agreement includes direct input from students and is a binding contract between all parties.