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Are school police effective? More data needed

Knowing that police officers are patrolling K-12 schools makes many parents feel better about sending their children off to class each day.

But how much safer do the school police make students, staff and campus property?

A real answer to this big question is hard to come by.

That’s the worrisome take-away from a new look at the subject by The Christian Science Monitor, which cites experts and anecdotes to lay out the national issue: “At a moment when officers in schools are seen by some as a solution to the threat of violence in school, the debate has been turned on its head: Are these so-called school resource officers (SROs) actually the cause of too much violence? Instead of making schools safer, are they ramping up a disciplinary arms race?”

Among questions raised: How well are campus officers trained for tasks that often go beyond security, law and rule enforcement to include mentoring and counseling? Does aggressive campus policing leave kids with criminal records for misbehavior that would have been addressed by parents and teachers in years past? Are minorities disciplined disproportionately?

The massive Los Angeles Unified School District has the nation’s largest school police force, including more than 400 sworn officers and 100 safety officers. Speaking with an editorial writer, L.A. Schools Police Department Public Information Officer Sgt. Julie Spry could provide no data attesting to the force’s effectiveness.

Anecdotal reports indicate officers do many wonderful things for kids.

But The Christian Science Monitor quoted Sheri Bauman, a University of Arizona education professor: “There’s such a widespread belief that (SROs) make kids safer, yet we don’t really know that. … We need to have some scientific analyses that answer those questions.”

In an era when the public expects city and county law-enforcement agencies to provide specific data on trends in crime and officer deployment on our streets, no less should be expected from the departments protecting our schools.

The Orange County Register, Sept. 11

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Infinite hope at the Paralympic Games

There are few better examples of bouncing back from life’s difficulties than the athletes competing at the Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro through next Sunday.

There is U.S. swimmer Brad Snyder, who lost his vision when an IED exploded near him as he patrolled with a Navy SEAL unit in Afghanistan in 2011. A former captain of the Naval Academy swimming team, he found solace in the pool and won two gold medals at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

“I didn’t like that everyone was so distraught and so messed up (after the injury). I’m used to having a positive impact on people. Swimming, in the beginning, was a way to turn that on its head,” Snyder told The Washington Post.

Australian rower Erik Horrie was 7 years old when his parents dropped him off at an orphanage. At 21, he was involved in a head-on accident and was told he would never walk again. He hasn’t, but he became an elite wheelchair basketball player, a silver medalist in 2012 in the single sculls and, most important, a youth counselor.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said: “We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope.” There are more than 4,350 athletes competing in Rio who have not given into life’s disappointments. The word “hero” gets used loosely these days. It actually applies to Paralympic athletes.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 12

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