“Tell me about the resource officer in your school,” I asked my kid.
“There’s a cop in your school. They call them resource officers."
“Oh! You mean Mr. Coppy?"
“The cop in your school is named Mr. Coppy?"
“That’s what I call him."
“To his face?"
“No, I don’t see him much.” My kid goes to school in Richland One School District, one over from Richland Two, which is where the “school resource officer” recently flipped a student out of her desk and dragged her out of the room. I’ve been to Spring Valley High School where the incident occurred, to give a talk and meet students who might come to our program at the University of South Carolina. Folks not from around here might have the impression that a school where some hot-headed cop is wailing on non-white kids must be happening in some stereotypically mal-funded school on the "wrong side of the tracks.”
Now, this is not the post where I talk about how criminally bad South Carolina schools are, but I’m telling you that this school is freaking gorgeous. You walk around going damn, whatever about the testing and the pseudocurriculum and the testing, at least somebody has thought something out here. So don’t get thinking that this is happening in some cartoon of an 1980’s inner city school film starring Edward James Olmos as the tough-teacher-with-a-heart-of-gold.
I took the photo above in March 2015, in a different school in SC, during a LEGO Robotics competition on a Saturday. Another beautifully built, wel-appointed, brochure-quality school facility. This is normal. Everywhere.
Look, I don’t like the idea of cops everywhere, especially in schools. But I also don’t like the very popular idea of people waltzing into school and shooting everybody. But nobody seems to want to do anything about that except give the teachers guns. These teachers can’t even send a text message without seven follow-up error corrections; I don’t see issuing firearms to all of them as a particularly wise strategy. That leaves “cop at the main entrance” as the next best thing.
So first, stop calling them “school resource officers.” They’re not mall cops. They’re real police. If you don’t like police being there, fix that problem instead of renaming them like they’re actually unicorns.
Second, teachers and administrators need to stop bringing in the cops for stupid stuff. They are not there for you to outsource the disciplinary aspects of education. If you feel like you’ve lost control, there’s a problem, and both the problem and the solution starts with the design of the school and the class. Calling in an air strike is not the right choice.
In this week’s police brutality exhibition, the teacher decided that dealing with a student behaving badly—not dangerously, just annoyingly—was not their job, and so called an administrator. The genius administrator's best idea? To call in the cop. What the hell is wrong with you people? I mean, I’m amused by the idea that every time there was something I didn’t want to deal with in my classes, I could call in by boss, who could then call in the cops. That’d be comedy. But really? A teenager being non-compliant and annoying? Won’t put away their phone? Won’t accept that you are a higher power? ALERT THE MEDIA. THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE.
“Have you ever seen a teacher call in a cop to the classroom?” I asked my kid.
“Only once,” he said, and he described one class where the teacher’s daily favorite ritual is yelling at the class until his face turns purple. “He called in Mr. Coppy when these kids wouldn’t stop talking."
“There was nothing he could do about it.” See? Because laws and common decency. Thank you, Mr. Coppy.