No one would say we should only start saving COVID patients as they lay in hospital beds on ventilators, struggling for their next breath. They would say we should wear masks, social distance, and get vaccinated.
So why are we prioritizing putting cops in schools, when we could be prioritizing mental health services and restorative justice?
After the tragedy that happened at Magruder last week, MCPS went about making sure each and every high school had a heightened police presence for the time being. On the surface, it probably seems beneficial: having guns to combat the guns that others may be bringing in. But is it? The situation at Magruder started as a personal conflict that escalated to a violent confrontation. Police can only do so much once the damage has already been done. They can apprehend, they can de-escalate. But they can’t truly address prevention.
If the police presence is to invoke some sort of fear of a consequence, that won’t really work in the name of prevention either.
It’s unrealistic to say that there can be no violence. Many violent tendencies are learned at home, engraved in students’ minds, and MCPS can’t do much about it. But, being able to provide an outlet for students to safely express their emotions can be a great step towards prevention.
That’s where more mental health resources come in. And we’re talking about more than having counselors being available throughout the day after these events have occurred.
Violence prevention is a long-term investment that can’t have a significant impact in a day. But, we should be making consistent steps towards it.
It’s no secret that teachers, counselors, and the small number of school psychologists that are being passed between MCPS schools are overworked sometimes. They don’t necessarily have the time to check on every student that needs it and those that seem like they don’t. It often is the hidden traumas that grow into something so dangerous. Having these resources, consistent mental health checks, and all adults in a building able to recognize signs of potential violence and act on it will lead to less violence by making adjustments before they’re necessary.
It’s a big ask to find and evenly distribute the hundreds of mental health professionals that are needed to ensure adequate coverage for all students in a couple weeks or months. This would likely take years and multiple adjustments to the annual budget. But, it should be done, and it should be a priority.
For more on alternate prevention methods, check out Alternative Solutions to More Police in Schools.