Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Middle School Rhapsody in Blue: Cops On Campus

Even after only a few days of the new school year, it's quite obvious that the big change at my school, Jefferson MS, is the ubiquitous presence of our two new school cops. These guys, one of whom is wearing a gun (a fact noted by every student with a combined sense of awe and disapproval), have an uncanny ability to be everywhere, like they have mirrors or clones or something.

To be honest, they kinda freak me out.

Personally, I've never been one to dislike or distrust the police. I've been lucky to have not had any real interactions with them over the years, and generally support their presence (especially along 2nd Street S.W. when everybody is flying down the 30 mph section at 55 mph and I'm getting run over as I go the speed limit).

But having two of them in my school has me torn. I'd be lying if I said the school didn't feel "safer" with these ever-present guys in blue scary uniforms all over the place. I absolutely HATE little kids getting picked on, and there's nothing like armed law enforcement to reduce the number of wedgies and noogies. During our between period "hall duty", I've already discerned a drop in the need for me to really do anything. A simple "there's a guy with a gun down the hall right now, stop doing X" seems to do the trick every time.

At the same time, there's a guy with a gun down the hall inside my school. Our answer to crazy people and the hyper-publicized, ultra-rare occurrence of deadly school violence has been to throw more guns at the issue. The atmosphere of my school has changed from slightly chaotic and mischievous to calmer and more weapon-obsessed.

It's like we've decided we can't cope, and have to start taking the medication. It's hard not to feel like R.P. McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, surrounded by the medicated and the medicators, while everyone mouths expressions like "it sure is good to have these cops on campus!"

Maybe that feeling will change, and the newness of cops wearing guns at Jefferson MS will become unremarkable, but right now there's an undercurrent of resentment and vague depression noticeable among some of the students and many of the staff on the issue. Or maybe that's just me projecting my own ambivalence onto everyone. Hard to tell, as right now it's informally un-cool to say anything negative about the cops on campus thing, and that de facto censorship is a drag in itself.

Meanwhile, in lighter "guns on campus" news, those fun-loving Texans (always good for a laugh or two in these matters) are looking to a bigger, broader solution: gun-toting teachers.

"Little Johnny....are you gonna stop talking in class, or do I need to go to my desk and pull out that 357 magnum?"


Nora said...

I'm also wondering what the permanent effects (positive or negative) of having cops around all the time from ages 11-28 is going to have on kids. I'm not sure what exactly that would be-- I'm sure arguments could be made that it would make students more or less afraid of police, more or less complacent, etc-- but it'll be interesting to see.

Anonymous said...

I may be wrong, but I think here is on eof your SRO's...


Cheers, Mi3ke

jscotkey said...

Mike: I do believe you're right! Nice catch, and I am already thinking of this new cop in a new way. I'm still not sure what that new way is, exactly, but it's new.

Anonymous said...

"blue scary uniforms"

You have got to be kidding.
I hope none of your students pick up on this. That's all we need, a whole generation of kids afraid of cops for no reason.

tch tch tch

jscotkey said...


One almost gets the impression you are suggesting that one shouldn't even be allowed to construe connotations like "scary blue uniforms", especially teachers. I'm sure you would "allow" people to feel that way. As to why somebody might....

A. From my perspective, people in uniform, any uniform, will always remind me of things like the Nuremberg rallies, just as the idea of "teachers" will always remind me of the horrible teacher in "400 Blows". As I mentioned in the piece, my own feelings about cops are positive, by and large. The uniform....not so much.

B. From the student's perspective, Nora in comments above brings up the "permanent effects (positive or negative) of having cops around all the time...." That's an interesting point, and, as she says, we'll just have to see what happens.

Anon, I will point out, as you are surely aware, that for many in our community cops are seen as a far more negative entity than law enforcement may really deserve. Socialization being infinitely more important within families than via schools, one wonders what negatives are already at play when a 6th/7th/8th grader comes across cops on campus with guns for the first time. It should be interesting.

Finally, there's the whole "authority" thing, whether that authority is a teacher or a cop or a father or whatever. Authority is always something of an enemy, and at no time is this more true than when we are 13 years old.