I was recently asked about why our district does not have police officers regularly stationed in our secondary schools and why we don’t use drug dogs in those schools to detect and deter drug possession. The topic of “community liaisons”—which I think referred to police liaisons in the schools—was on the agenda for our work session on Tuesday, though the board meeting ran so late we had to postpone the work session.
At the moment there is no concrete proposal in front of us, so I can just talk generally about my predispositions on the issue. In general, I prefer a system where police come to a school when they are called, rather than one in which police have an ongoing presence in the schools. Part of my concern is because of nationwide trends toward treating school disciplinary matters as law enforcement matters. (See, for example, this article.) I’d prefer to have a school official, rather than a law enforcement officer, making the initial determination about whether to treat an issue as a law enforcement matter. As for the counseling role school resource officers could play, I’d prefer to see it played by school counselors who are under the authority of the school system rather than an outside entity.
I would also be concerned about having drug-sniffing dogs patrolling the schools. If they are used at all, I would want to limit their use to situations where there is a reasonable suspicion about a particular person, rather than subject everyone to that kind of examination, for the same reasons that I wouldn’t want to have police dogs routinely inspecting people walking around downtown, just at random and without any particularized suspicion. I’d be concerned about what that teaches kids about civil liberties and privacy. There are also concerns about the reliability of drug dogs’ responses.
The issue of school resource officers came up a few years ago, and the board voted down a proposal to pursue a grant that would have partially funded a school resource officer program. You can read about that issue here. I wasn’t on the board at the time, but I wrote about it here.