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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 8/22/16

Children of the American Police State: Just Another Brick in the Wall

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That is no longer the case.

Nowadays, students are not only punished for minor transgressions such as playing cops and robbers on the playground, bringing LEGOs to school, or having a food fight, but the punishments have become far more severe, shifting from detention and visits to the principal's office into misdemeanor tickets, juvenile court, handcuffs, tasers and even prison terms.

Students have been suspended under school zero-tolerance policies for bringing to school "look-alike substances" such as oregano, breath mints, birth control pills, and powdered sugar.

Look-alike weapons (toy guns--even Lego-sized ones, hand-drawn pictures of guns, pencils twirled in a "threatening" manner, imaginary bows and arrows, even fingers positioned like guns) can also land a student in hot water.

Consider that by the time the average young person in America finishes their public school education, nearly one out of every three of them will have been arrested.

Moreover, just as militarized police who look, think and act like soldiers on a battlefield have made our communities less safe, the growing presence of police in the nation's schools is resulting in environments in which it's no longer safe for children to act like children.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Justice, these school resource officers have become de facto wardens in elementary, middle and high schools, doling out their own brand of justice to the so-called "criminals" in their midst with the help of tasers, pepper spray, batons and brute force.

Now advocates for such harsh police tactics and weaponry will tell you that school safety should be our first priority.

What they might fail to mention in their zeal to lock down the schools are the lucrative, multi-million-dollar deals being cut with military contractors to equip school cops with tasers, tanks, rifles and $100,000 shooting-detection systems.

Indeed, the militarization of the police has been mirrored in the public schools, where school police have been gifted with high-powered M16 rifles, MRAP armored vehicles, grenade launchers, and other military gear. One Texas school district even boasts its own 12-member SWAT team.

What we're grappling with is not merely a public-school system that resembles a prison and is treating young people like prisoners but also a profit-driven system of incarceration has given rise to a growth in juvenile prisons and financial incentives for jailing young people.

It has been said that America's schools are the training ground for future generations.

Instead of raising up a generation of freedom fighters, however, we seem to be busy churning out newly minted citizens of the American police state who are being taught the hard way what it means to comply, fear and march in lockstep with the government's dictates.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, it's getting harder by the day to convince young people that we live in a nation that values freedom and which is governed by the rule of law.

With every school police raid and overzealous punishment that is carried out in the name of school safety, the lesson being imparted is that Americans--especially young people--have no rights at all against the state or the police.

The bottom line is this: if you want a nation of criminals, treat the citizenry like criminals.

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John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead's aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more...)
 

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