CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Nance on School Security, Race, and the Fourth Amendment

Nance jasonJason P. Nance (University of Florida Levin College of Law) has posted Students, Security, and Race on SSRN. Here is the abstract:

In the wake of the terrible shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, our nation has turned its focus to school security. For example, several states have passed or are considering passing legislation that will provide funding to schools for security equipment and law enforcement officers. Strict security measures in schools certainly are not new. In response to prior acts of school violence, many public schools for years have relied on metal detectors, random sweeps for contraband, locked gates, surveillance cameras, and law enforcement officers to promote school safety. Before lawmakers and school officials invest more money in strict security measures, this Article provides two major points that should be considered. 

First, drawing on recent, restricted data from the U.S. Department of Education’s School Survey on Crime and Safety, this Article presents an original empirical analysis measuring the use of strict security practices across the country during the 2009-10 school year. The analysis reveals that low-income students and minority students are much more likely to experience intense, prison-like conditions than other students, even when taking into account factors such as neighborhood crime, school crime, school disorder, school size, and school location. These findings raise concerns that such inequalities may continue or worsen as lawmakers provide additional funding for security measures. Second, this Article argues that school officials and lawmakers can curb violence more effectively in our schools and communities by investing in programs that build trust and collective responsibility than by using strict security measures. 

Further, this Article offers recommendations to address the disproportionate use of strict security measures on low-income students and minority students. In addition to urging school officials and policymakers to adopt alternative, more effective methods to reduce violence, this Article encourages federal and state agencies to stop providing grants for strict security measures and, instead, to use those funds to motivate schools to implement alternative programs that prevent school crime without harming the learning environment. Additionally, this Article recommends that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and play a more active role in addressing the disproportionate use of strict security measures on minority students. Finally, this Article concludes by proposing an alternative test that courts should apply to evaluate students’ Fourth Amendment rights.

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