Class Cops

After Columbine, has HISD gone overboard trying to make schools safer?

"Some of the aggressive security methods are out of proportion with the risks," says Fox, now a Northeastern University professor, who advises the White House on school safety. "It creates a fortresslike environment that can only distract from the learning environment and is a constant reminder to kids of how vulnerable they are."

"That's like saying that our schools are oversafe," Abbott says. He notes that there is only one uniformed HISD officer for every 1,300 students and employees. To claim that is overpolicing is "ridiculous on its face," he says. Abbott points to rising TAAS scores as proof that safety efforts don't hamper students' abilities to learn.

Test scores, Fox says, are not the only measure of the learning environment. Students would benefit more from money spent on supplies, teacher salaries and other improvements to the quality of education, he says, rather than on elaborate security measures. The risk of school violence is one in two million, he notes, about the same as being struck by lightning.

"My concern is that in a willy-nilly fashion we have rushed to oversecure our school buildings in spite of the fact that schools are the safest place for schoolkids to be," Fox says. "The rate of violence in the school is less than at the mall, even less than in the homes."

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