Paper Title

Racializing Safety in Schools

Location

Room 217, West Center

Start Date

April 2016

End Date

April 2016

Keywords

SROs, criminalization, youth, safety, race, hierarchy, school discipline

Abstract

This paper explores the way that what I call the “safety narrative” is used to justify the presence of police in public schools and the ways in which the presence of police officers in public schools serve to reproduce racist and sexist social narratives and hierarchies.

SROs can be found in approximately 35% of public schools (Weiler & Cray, 2011, p. 160), and “school policing is the fastest growing law enforcement field” (Hirschfield, 2008, p. 82). However, how and why SROs have become an increasingly normal part of the education system is up for debate, and I explore the narrative that has been most widely accepted by the general public. The safety narrative is offered by schools, policy-makers, and parents and can be summarized as follows: we need to make schools as safe as possible, and SROs are there to protect our children (Trump, 1998; Hirschfield, 2008). However, the premise underlying this narrative is this: students are dangerous, particularly African-American students. I examine articles and letters to the editor published in The State newspaper following the November 2015 incident at Spring Valley High School in Columbia (in which an African-American female was forcibly removed from the classroom) for examples of the school safety narrative and explore how these examples reveal public acceptance of this highly racialized narrative.

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Apr 2nd, 9:00 AM Apr 2nd, 10:15 AM

Racializing Safety in Schools

Room 217, West Center

This paper explores the way that what I call the “safety narrative” is used to justify the presence of police in public schools and the ways in which the presence of police officers in public schools serve to reproduce racist and sexist social narratives and hierarchies.

SROs can be found in approximately 35% of public schools (Weiler & Cray, 2011, p. 160), and “school policing is the fastest growing law enforcement field” (Hirschfield, 2008, p. 82). However, how and why SROs have become an increasingly normal part of the education system is up for debate, and I explore the narrative that has been most widely accepted by the general public. The safety narrative is offered by schools, policy-makers, and parents and can be summarized as follows: we need to make schools as safe as possible, and SROs are there to protect our children (Trump, 1998; Hirschfield, 2008). However, the premise underlying this narrative is this: students are dangerous, particularly African-American students. I examine articles and letters to the editor published in The State newspaper following the November 2015 incident at Spring Valley High School in Columbia (in which an African-American female was forcibly removed from the classroom) for examples of the school safety narrative and explore how these examples reveal public acceptance of this highly racialized narrative.