A SWAT team at Habans Elementary School, New Orleans. (Flickr/Bart Everson)
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com.
Outrage over the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre may or may not spur any meaningful gun control laws, but you can bet your Crayolas that it will lead to more 7-year-olds getting handcuffed and hauled away to local police precincts.
You read that right. Americans may disagree deeply about how easy it should be for a mentally ill convicted felon to purchase an AR-15, but when it comes to putting more law enforcement officers inside our schools, the National Rifle Association (NRA) and liberal Democrats like Senator Barbara Boxer are as one. And when police (or “school resource officers,” as these sheriff’s deputies are often known) spend time in a school, they often deal with disorder like proper cops—by slapping cuffs on the little perps and dragging them to the precinct.
Just ask the three 9-year-old girls and an 8-year-old boy who got into a fight at their Baltimore elementary school—then got arrested by real police. Or Salecia Johnson, age 6, cuffed and arrested for throwing a tantrum at her elementary school in Milledgeville, Georgia. Or Wilson Reyes, a 7-year-old at a Bronx, New York, elementary school who last December 4 was cuffed, hauled away, and interrogated under suspicion of taking $5 from a classmate. (Another kid later confessed.)
The last of these incidents made the cover of the New York Post, but the New York City Police Department still doesn’t understand what they did wrong—sure, the first-grader spent about four hours handcuffed in a detention room, but that’s “standard for juvenile arrest.”
Which is precisely the problem: standard juvenile misbehavior (a five-year-old pitching a fit, a 12-year-old doodling on a desk, a 13-year-old farting in class, a class clown running around the football field at halftime in a banana suit) is increasingly being treated like serious crime, resulting in handcuffs and arrest. If you can’t understand why such “consistency” is crazy, please desist from reading the rest of this article.
It seems grotesque that the horrific slaughter of those twenty children in Newtown, Connecticut, will result in more children getting traumatized, but that’s exactly where we’re headed—with firm bipartisan support.
In his amazing post-Newtown speech last December, Wayne LaPierre, the CEO and executive vice president of the NRA, called for armed guards in all schools—a demand widely hailed as jaw-droppingly nutty. A few weeks later, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) proposed $50 million in federal grants to install more metal detectors, surveillance cameras and National Guard troops in schools, but made her pitch in the caring cadences of a Marin County Democrat. And when President Obama ordered more police in schools (point eighteen in his twenty-three-point Executive Order responding to the Sandy Hook tragedy), it was all over.