POLITICS
01/08/2019 12:20 pm ET

For Students Of Color At Parkland, More Security Doesn’t Mean More Safety

“We don’t necessarily trust police," one student said. "We have a lot of reasons to not trust them.”
Students sit at a makeshift memorial for one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Mar
ASSOCIATED PRESS
Students sit at a makeshift memorial for one of the victims of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, March 14, 2018, in Parkland, Florida. 

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission unanimously approved its final report last week, with hundreds of pages’ worth of investigation and recommendations now going to the governor’s office and the Florida legislature for action.

“We will not wait,” the 439-page report reads in part. “We will be vigilant and we, like the legislature, expect compliance and change with urgency.”

The report is an in-depth analysis of the Parkland shooting in February 2018 that left 17 students and staff members dead. It documents extensive shortcomings in the school’s security measures prior to the shooting, and outlines deficiencies in the police response. It offers a searing critique of the school and sheriff department’s ability to stymie the bloodshed.

The commission was formed in March by the Florida legislature, and its 16 members include sheriffs, school board members, academics and parents of students murdered in the shooting. Its report offers dozens of recommendations about how the high school ― and school districts around the state ― could improve safety. It calls for increased funding for school police officers and training teachers to carry firearms.

The suggested solutions, though, are not an adequate response to the questions raised by the shooting, some Parkland students say.

Some students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas ― particularly those of color ― told HuffPost that the suggested changes, like heightened security and armed teachers, would make the school feel less safe. 

“We don’t necessarily trust police. We have a lot of reasons to not trust them,” said Aalayah Eastmond, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas who survived last year’s shooting. “So having them at school makes it ten times worse and heightens the problem.”

Eastmond told HuffPost the school has already started to feel less welcoming for students of color with an increase in police presence. She describes seeing “new people on campus every day with really big guns.” 

“Some of them are really nice, but not all of them are nice,” she said. “We don’t really know them. It’s uncomfortable for a lot of people.”

While there have been a handful of instances where police officers prevented or mitigated school shootings, there is no comprehensive research suggesting that school police officers deter school shootings overall.

However, there is evidence suggesting that having cops in schools can help perpetuate the school-to-prison pipeline ― the cycle in which students, particularly students of color, are pushed out of school and into the criminal justice system when school authorities criminalize student misbehavior. A HuffPost investigation found that schools with police officers are significantly more likely to refer their students to law enforcement for incidents involving theft, vandalism and alcohol.

Stoneman Douglas employed a school-based police officer at the time of the shooting. Instead of confronting the shooter, he hid, according to the public safety commission’s report.

Still, research has shown that schools with police officers are more likely to have emergency plans in place in case of a shooting. These schools also receive more regular safety inspections.

“I think that increasing the police presence at the school doesn’t serve any long-term effects other than helping to increase racial profiling at school, particularly for minority students,” Kai Koerber, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas and a survivor of the shooting, told HuffPost. “For me that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because the fact of the matter is, most of the time, it’s not minority students carrying out these acts of mass murder.”

Kai Koerber, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is opposed to the idea of arming teachers.
Photo courtesy of Kai Koerber
Kai Koerber, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, is opposed to the idea of arming teachers.

Koerber also said he’s deeply uneasy with the idea of his teachers carrying guns.

“It would not make me feel comfortable being a black young man in the South, in a mostly white neighborhood, with my teachers being armed,” said Koerber, who has started an organization to promote mental health education in schools.

Issues like gun control fell outside the scope of the commission’s report, notwithstanding the high-profile political activism from Parkland students in the past year. Instead, the commission tackled ideas like arming teachers.

But even within the commission’s ranks, there was disagreement over the recommendation. At least one member, Max Schachter, who lost his son Alex in the shooting, has said he doesn’t believe in arming teachers. In recent days, two members of the commission have caused controversy by going on NRA-TV to promote the idea of teachers carrying weapons.

Overall, though, Schachter praised the report for its thoroughness.

“The 17 families wanted to get to the bottom of what happened on Feb. 14,” he said, per the Sun-Sentinel. “And I think that we’ve done that.”

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