Officers on campus won’t fix tragedy of school shootings – Marin Independent Journal

No matter what our political persuasion, everyone in Marin cares about school safety.

In the wake of the Uvalde school shooting, many are understandably afraid and calling for greater police presence in our schools. Yet the data over the past 40 years clearly shows that the answer is not to double down on measures that fail to prevent violence. Doing so will only exacerbate the problem.

The public health data outlined in study published in 2021 titled “Presence of Armed School Officials and Fatal and Nonfatal Gunshot Injuries During Mass School Shooting, United States, 1980-2019” indicates no connection between having an armed officer present in school and deterrence.

The study states that an armed officer present was identified as the primary factor associated with an increase in casualties in schools where a mass shooting took place. In essence, the presence of a weapon in school – no matter who is carrying it – increases aggression and the likelihood of violence. Moreover, the same study found that many school shooters are actively suicidal. Since they are intending to die in the act, an armed officer may actually be an incentive to perpetrate the very violence we all want to prevent.

Placing officers in schools is not the solution, despite the recent local decision by our Marin Board of Supervisors to fund yet another school resource officer in the county. This only leads to an increase in the arrest of students – an outsized number of whom are Black, Indigenous, people of color or disabled – for common childlike behaviors creating a climate of distrust. That’s not the climate of learning and respect that supports the success of all students.

Despite this evidence and the data produced in a number of other studies looking at placing police in schools, we tend to be consistently reactive. I’m concerned this could lead to children being harmed and, in the case of school shootings, dying as a result.

Specific prevention measures such as bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines, “permit to purchase” laws, extreme risk-protection orders (also known as red flag laws), restrictions of the kinds of firearms those younger than 21 can purchase and safe storage and child access prevention laws are all measures that could address the epidemic of gun violence in our country and in our schools.

However, enacting new legislation doesn’t go far enough to address the roots of this problem. If we want all our children to be and feel safe in school, we must address and improve the overall school environment.

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