HICKS COLUMN: School cops should stick to security, leave discipline alone
It's not very often that Dot Scott and Elizabeth Moffly agree on anything.
In fact, this is probably the first — perhaps only — time they've ever found themselves on the same side of an issue.
But the president of the Charleston branch of the NAACP and the outspoken Charleston County School Board member (and yet another candidate for the 1st District congressional seat) don't much like the idea of cops in schools.
And they have a point.
On Monday, the school board accepted North Charleston's offer to put police officers in 21 elementary schools there. This, of course, is a response to the Newtown, Conn., school massacre that left more than two dozen people dead, most of them elementary school kids.
The city has only the best intentions, and it's hard to go wrong by doing something to keep children safer. And this is certainly a more sensible solution that arming teachers, principals or day porters.
Scott and Moffly, however, say putting cops in schools tends to criminalize juvenile behavior.
And that's where the school district needs to draw the line.
Not the enemy
Last week, before Sheriff Al Cannon decided he was a constitutional scholar, he offered his decidedly non-sound-bite thoughts on cops in schools.
Generally, he's for it. Not only is it good for security, but a positive fringe benefit of school resource officers is that they give kids a view of the police that's positive. He notes that a lot of public school children grow up in communities where police are often not the most popular folks.
Some people, in fact, treat cops like the enemy. And that's not how it should be. The problem is when teachers and principals start taking discipline matters to these officers. That's not what they are there for.
Moffly and Scott say that far too often, campus officers are involved in routine disciplinary actions that school officials should handle themselves. Why is that a big deal?
Well, a kid gets sent to the principal's office for fighting, maybe he's suspended for three days. Bring in the police, and that same kid may end up with an arrest record.
Most times, that's a bit much.
Keep it safe, simple
North Charleston made a nice gesture, offering to pay for police officers in the city's 21 elementary schools. Most parents probably like the idea, so it's good that the school board graciously accepted.
You can't be too safe these days.
But there should be ground rules — not only here but in all schools. On Monday night, Moffly said most police officers don't have enough training in juvenile behavior. Whether they do or not, they shouldn't have to.
Police should be on campus only to keep it safe in the event of some major malfunction — like a nut with a gun. They shouldn't be pulled into school discipline issues, unless the offense rises to the level of true criminal activity.
Bottom line: Moffly and Scott offer a good compromise here for school police. Keep 'em on campus, and out of the classroom.
Reach Brian Hicks at email@example.com or read his blog at blog.postandcourier.com/brians-blog.