No Cops in Schools

By Betty Maloney, AFT Local 481 retiree
Newark, New Jersey

Shame on the Principal of Spring Valley High School, South Carolina, and shame on every school district that gives a gun-carrying police officer the authority to "discipline" young people while in school. One need only see the video footage to know that the treatment by school cop Ben Fields, known as "Officer Slam," of the female student was an assault and a violation of her civil rights - a reminder of the centuries-long brutalization of Black women in this country.

This is extremely serious in itself, not to mention her arrest and the arrest of the student who took the video-all while Mr. Fields faces no charges. Talk about adding insult to injury!!

The role of the school's administration, members of whom witnessed the attack, and the socio-economic system itself need to be examined.

As a retired Newark public school teacher and activist in the fight to save public education, I have seen the drastic change in how students are viewed under the corporate reform agenda. In order to get the high test scores, school districts leaders want scripted rote learning instead of critical thinkers in their classrooms. Excessive funding has been poured into testing and schools have been stripped bare of enrichment activities. The State of New Jersey has controlled the Newark school system for 20 years, fostering an economic inequality apartheid-type system that makes both students and teachers feel like they are in prison. Gone are the neighborhood community schools that once educated their parents. The proliferation of police in our schools and incidents like the one in Spring Valley are in-your-face signs of the school-to-prison pipeline.

In the U.S., public schools are portrayed as the means to make economic opportunity available to all, but in reality they are being used to indoctrinate the future work force. Is this forced march of quiet and compliant learners what the future of capitalism wants? I think so!

The corporate ruling class today is funding mass incarceration and constant war at record levels. As the capitalist economy struggles to survive, its rulers are fearful that the enriched social justice curriculum pushed by brave and innovative teachers may tell the truth about how racism and sexism prop up capitalism. They also fear the students who are exposed to this curriculum because they may become critical thinkers who will rebel and fight for a better world. In Newark, we are lucky to witness the determined leadership of the Newark Student Union.