Florida Schools Under Pressure to Get Rid of Cops
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that left 17 dead in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, 2018, fueled the decision by the Broward County sheriff to arm school-based deputies with automatic rifles. While this initial decision had been a stopgap measure to increase the appearance of security in the school district, it has also caused anxiety among students and teachers.
Impact of Armed Law Enforcement Patrolling Schools After George Floyd
For some students, hopping off the bus in the morning and seeing police officers on a high school campus armed with AR-15s is terrifying. Instead of feeling safer, some complain that they feel intimidated by the idea that students are viewed as potential threats, and some from minority backgrounds feel they are being profiled.
After Minneapolis resident George Floyd died while in the custody of a white police officer, protests have sprung up around the country. Large-scale marches and demonstrations have highlighted the tension between police officers and the citizens they are sworn to protect. School districts in major cities like Oakland, Seattle, and Chicago have taken steps to vote police presence out of their hallways and campuses.
Student Perspective on Police Presence
Students in South Florida that want to hold rallies and actively participate in the cry for policing reforms face a more difficult challenge: possibly being confronted by armed police officers on their school campuses because of security fears as a result of the Parkland shooting. Florida made this law enforcement presence a requirement by making it law shortly after the tragic loss of life at Stoneman Douglas. Worse, two and a half years later, a study by the University of Florida determined that police presence had practically doubled since its passage, leading to unintended jumps in arrests of students for offenses not related to preventing violent gun crimes.
These findings have encouraged civil rights groups to repeal the law, while students and school district officials try to find ways to siphon away funding for campus security and hire more counselors and social workers instead.
Arrests and Violence by Police Increases on Florida School Grounds
The findings that arrests had jumped by a whopping 82% at schools have highlighted how police presence has been interjected into schools and has led to an increase of disciplinary infractions being issued against middle schoolers for incidents that are not severe. This trend has also highlighted how police actions toward students are justifying the concerns that researchers and student activists hold.
A cell phone video from earlier in the year recently surfaced capturing a Miami-Dade school officer making threats of shooting Black students while the officer’s hand was resting on her gun. An Orlando cop also sparked outrage after arresting a six-year-old Black student at a charter school.
There is also evidence that police are targeting youth off school grounds more frequently. In another police and student encounter, Broward Sheriff’s Office deputies are on video arresting a 15-year-old Black student while breaking up a scuffle in a McDonald’s parking lot near his high school. Police not only pepper-sprayed the young man, but they viciously slammed his head into the pavement after punching him. The student suffered a fractured nose, and the two deputies involved are currently facing misdemeanor battery charges.
Civil Rights Groups Pressuring Florida Lawmakers
Florida school districts and teachers have allies in their push to get cops off their campuses. The ACLU of Florida and the Southern Poverty Law Center have used recent incidents of police violence toward students of color as a means to push for repealing the law altogether or, at a minimum, amending it to allow districts more control of how these resources are implemented.
Still, there are examples of deep-rooted support for maintaining officer presence in schools because of how fast a mass shooting can occur. Some parents of students killed in the Parkland shooting worry that without police on campus, another tragic incident costing dozens of lives might occur.
Protect Your Child’s Constitutional Rights in Florida Schools
The Florida legislature’s efforts to protect students from experiencing mass gun violence and create a safe and secure learning environment has backfired. Putting police officers in schools has created a situation where our children face the risk of being unlawfully targeted, violently arrested, and intimidated from pursuing social issues they are passionate about. If your student has faced unfair targeting and police intimidation, it is critical to speak with an experienced attorney right away to evaluate the situation and work with the school and law enforcement to protect your student’s rights.
The Orlando civil rights attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm have over 100 years of combined experience they will use to defend your child’s right to a safe learning environment free of harassment and abuse of power by law enforcement. As former Florida prosecutors at the state and local level, we have extensive knowledge regarding these matters. When you hire us to represent you, we dedicate ourselves to working toward a solution that ensures the rights of your child and family receive protections due to you under the law.
To arrange your free consultation with one of our attorneys, call us at (407) 228-3838 or contact us online 24/7.