Why armed police patrol Texas schools, arresting pupils

Jan 10, 2012

Last week a teenager was shot dead by officers after he produced an airgun

HUNDREDS of schoolchildren are appearing in court every day in Texas charged with offences including swearing and fighting on the school bus, as armed police roam corridors arresting errant pupils and issuing tickets to children as young as six, The Guardian reports.
Chris McGreal reports on the use of police to maintain order in schools a week after a teenager was shot dead by officers at a school in Brownsville. 
He says many schools in Texas and beyond are now patrolled by "officers in uniform who carry guns to keep order in the canteens, playgrounds and lessons... Children have been arrested for possessing cigarettes, wearing 'inappropriate' clothes and being late for school." In 2010 almost 300,000 'Class-C misdemeanour' tickets were issued, McGreal reports. The recipients get a criminal record.
Police began patrolling schools in response to fears - “misplaced” in McGreal’s view - of a looming American crime wave in the 1980s stoked by the crack epidemic, “alarmist” academic studies and media reports. The Columbine massacre in 1999 added to the momentum.
According to the Austin schools police department, officers used force more than 400 times between 2003 and 2008. Incidents included a food fight that was broken up with pepper spray and guns being drawn on "lippy students".
Recently a 16-year-old pupil at a high school in Seguin, Texas was tasered and later charged with criminal trespass - even though he should have been on the grounds - because he was not wearing ID.
Then, last week, 15-year-old Jaime Gonzalez was shot and killed by officers at Cummings middle school in Brownsville. They opened fire when he produced an airgun outside the principal's office.
Britain is taking note. In September, the UK's justice minister, Crispin Blunt, visited Texas to look at how it polices its children and young adults. 
In England and Wales 29 of the 43 police forces now place officers in schools and more than 5,000 schools have signed up to a scheme that places an officer on the grounds, according to the Daily Mail.

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