An investigation by the HuffPost found that children have been Tasered by school cops in at least 143 incidents since September 2011. Rebecca Klein of the HuffPost wrote that they specifically tracked incidents where the cop worked full or part time at the school. Our number represents a bare minimum count, as most of these incidents are likely not reported by local media or subject to litigation.
Over the past several years, children have been Tasered for a range of behaviors, sometimes merely for childhood misbehaviors like talking back, even as these weapons have the ability to seriously injure or even kill, our investigation found. (A 2017 Reuters investigation uncovered 150 autopsy reports that referenced Taser use as a cause or contributing factor to deaths since the early 2000s, around the country.)
A 15-year-old child with special needs was Tasered in New Mexico earlier this year after mouthing off. (The deputy in this case now faces charges of child abuse.) In 2018, a deputy in Ohio used a Taser to awake a sleeping student. Victims have been as young as 11 years old. Students have been stunned near the heart — despite the high safety risk associated with doing so.
Tasers in schools have also been used to protect children, deescalating acts of near-fatal violence. In 2016, school cops used a Taser to subdue a student who had stabbed five classmates. On at least several occasions, deputies have successfully used Tasers to protect students from violent intruders.
The number of electroshock weapons in schools has risen in recent decades with the number of cops in schools.
In 1997, only 10% of schools reported employing a police officer. But after the Columbine shooting in 1999, these numbers started to skyrocket. In the wake of Parkland, these numbers are only poised to increase, with states and the federal government further injecting funding into such positions, a move designed to protect students from active shooters.
More than half of all public schools employed a sworn law enforcement officer as of the 2017-18 school year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Of these officers, more than 90% carried a “physical restraint,” like handcuffs or a Taser.
There’s conflicting research about whether or not cops make schools safer overall. Statistics suggest that their presence can help funnel kids into the criminal justice system for schoolyard misbehaviors, especially students of color. On the other hand, schools with cops are more likely to have emergency safety plans in place. Many districts don’t require these cops to have special training before working with children, meaning they might apply the same tactics in a school hallway as they would on the street.
“It raises a lot of policy issues about how can school resource officers be safely integrated into school systems and have their role be limited to imminent risk of serious bodily injury,” said Diane Smith Howard, managing attorney for criminal and juvenile justice at the National Disability Rights Network. “When they’re around, they get used for this other stuff.”
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