Arrest powers are not appropriate for nonviolent school behavior -- let's end them

School security and law enforcement officers should not arrest students for nonviolent behavioral issues in our schools. But they have the authority, and frequently abuse it.  Amity Pope, who urged the National Education Association convention to take action on this issue, says we should begin to remedy this locally as well.

/By Amity Pope/ As a delegate to the 2017 National Education Association Convention in Boston, I spoke to eliminating the power of arrest from law enforcement in schools for students who commit non-violent, low-level offenses --because what is happening in our schools across the nation is a reflection of the ‘new’ society in which we live. 

 Our schools are being turned into prisons because our entire society is functioning with a zero-tolerance mentality. The new administration in Washington, DC has created hate to be the new normal, while social norms are becoming more and more eroded.  Beginning in 2010 up to now there have been episodes of arrests for students in school that don’t make the news and if we don’t stay WOKE this movie will soon come to a theatre near you.  Did you know... 

  • At one public school down in Texas, a 12-year-old girl was recently arrested for spraying herself with perfume.
  • A 13-year-old student at a school in Albuquerque, New Mexico was recently arrested by police for burping in class.
  • Another student in Albuquerque was forced to strip down to his underwear while five adults watched because he had $200 in his pocket.  The student was never formally charged with doing anything wrong.
  • A security guard at a school in California broke the arm of a 16-year-old girl because she left some crumbs on the floor after cleaning up some cake that she had spilled.
  • One teenage couple in Houston poured milk on each other during a disagreement while they were breaking up.  Instead of being sent to see the principal, they were arrested and sent to court.
  • A 12-year-old girl at a school in Forest Hills, New York was arrested by police and marched out of her school in handcuffs just because she doodled on her desk. “I love my friends Abby and Faith” was what she reportedly scribbled on her desk.
  • A 6-year-old girl in Florida was handcuffed and sent to a mental facility after throwing temper tantrums at her elementary school.
  • A student in Texas was reportedly arrested by police for throwing paper airplanes in class.
  • A 17-year-old honor student in North Carolina accidentally took her father’s lunch with her to school which contained a small paring knife he used to slice up apples.  When the school discovered this they suspended her for the rest of the year and she was charged with a misdemeanor.
  • In Allentown, Pennsylvania a 14-year-old girl was tasered in the groin area by a school security officer after she had put up her hands in the air to surrender.
  • In Florida, an 11-year-old student was arrested, thrown in jail and charged with a third-degree felony for bringing a plastic butter knife to school.
  • An 8-year-old boy in Massachusetts was sent home from school and was forced to undergo a psychological evaluation because he drew a picture of Jesus on the cross.
  • A police officer in San Mateo, California blasted a 7-year-old special education student in the face with pepper spray because he would not quit climbing on the furniture.
  • In Stockton, California a while back a student was handcuffed with zip ties on his hands and feet, forced to go to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and was charged with battery on a police officer. That student was 5 years old.
  • In Connecticut, a 17-year-old boy was thrown to the floor and tasered five times because he was yelling at a cafeteria worker.
  • A teenager in suburban Dallas was forced to take on a part-time job after being ticketed for using foul language in one high school classroom.  The original ticket was for $340, but additional fees raised the total bill to $637.
  • Just a few months ago, police were called out when a elementary female student kissed her classmate during their physical education class in Florida.
  • A 6-year-old boy was recently charged with sexual battery for some “inappropriate touching” during a game of tag at one elementary school in the San Francisco area.
  • Here in Massachusetts, police were recently sent out to collect an overdue library book from a 5-year-old girl.

 Knowing these situations have happened, I urge you to support the removal of the power to arrest for non-violent, low-level offenses from law enforcement, security guards and school resource officers in our schools locally.  Advocate for MORE funding for counselors and other qualified mental health providers.  Let’s use restorative justice practices as a means to building trust and workable relationships!


Amity Pope is a Progressive Prince George’s lead organizer and a Mentor Teacher at PGCPS.