Can you think of a legitimate reason for schools systems needing tanks in San Diego Unified, grenade launchers in Los Angeles Unified, or machine guns in Compton? Has your district made similar investments?
I’ve started writing this post at least the three times. Once in reaction to the police shooting in Ferguson of an unarmed teen who was to start college classes in a matter of days, no easy feat for a African American male growing up in America. Bill Ferriter wrote poignantly about the factors stacked against students like Michael Brown and how that context may manifest in the classroom. Val Brown followed-up with a very personal piece addressing racial bias when it comes to anger and black male students.
I tried a second time when I learned that the Compton Unified School district would be arming their school police officers with AR-15 assault rifles, the same rifles that are banned in the state of California because they are appropriately deemed weapons of war rather than ‘sport,’ as the National Rifle Association would have us believe. In light of the disconcerting images of militarized police in Ferguson, I worried about the message students were receiving from highly-armed security officers on campus.
Not to be outdone, Los Angeles Unified invested in grenade launchers, which were euphemistically referred to as ‘ammunition launchers’ by the chief of the district’s police force. (UPDATE: The district has opted to return the grenade/ammunition launchers).
My third attempt came when it was reported that San Diego Unified purchased a Mine Resistant, Ambush Protected (MRAP) assault vehicle for the rock bottom price of $5,000 in shipping costs. I have yet to fathom when that will come in handy. Why an MRAP rather than a converted school bus? I tried laughing at the absurdity of that vehicle parked in a district lot somewhere, but I was too shocked to even register that response.
Which leads me to the clincher: Renee Moore’s provocative piece reminding adults what we owe to the next generation:
It is our responsibility to demand that all our children have in their own neighborhoods access to quality, public education that respects their humanity, challenges their intellect, and develops their character.
There’s simply something about an ‘Education that respects [children’s] humanity’ that doesn’t quite align with the arsenals that school police are assembling.
In no way am I discounting the monumental importance of school police forces and their mission to protect teachers and students. What concerns me is the message that is sent to students when the tools used to achieve that mission are the same ones being used fight wars abroad and suppress public demonstrations at home. What concerns me is that most of these purchases were not brought before the school board, where the public likely would have taken notice before the equipment showed up on campuses.
I may be overreacting, but can you think of a legitimate reason for schools systems needing tanks in San Diego, grenade launchers in Los Angeles, or machine guns in Compton? Has your district made similar investments?