Obama anti-gun project spurs protest from African-American lobby

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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The White House’s anti-gun project has created a minor crack in the progressive firmament, with African-American advocates worrying that increased police security at schools may lead to greater arrests of African-American students.

“Adding police and armed security to schools often means that normal student behavior becomes criminalized,” said a Jan. 10 statement from Damon Hewitt, a lawyer at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“The negative consequences of increased police activity is felt most sharply in schools with large numbers of African-American and poor children,” he claimed.

The push-back came in a rapid response to an article in the Jan. 10 Washington Post, which cited California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s claim that Vice President Joe Biden was “very, very interested” in her proposal that the federal government should fund police guards for schools.

The proposal is seen “as a potential area of common ground with Republicans who otherwise oppose stricter restrictions on firearms,” said the Post.

But the push back is likely to succeed. The White House — and like-minded progressives in the media and other Democratic advocacy sectors — have shown little enthusiasm for right-of-center proposals that trained teachers be given the right to choose to carry guns into schools.

The push-back against cops in schools complements the effort by African-American lobbies to set quotas on schools’ discipline policies.

These lobbies, including the Dignity in Schools group, argue that unregulated disciplinary rules unfairly target African-American youths, and cause more of them to be disciplined than their white and Asian-American peers. Even Attorney General Eric Holder has relied on those statistics to claim that “students of color … are disproportionately likely to be suspended or expelled.”

Critics contest that disciplinary action should be consistently enforced, regardless of race.

However, the African-American lobbyists’ opposition to police in schools is shared by many social and libertarian conservatives. They fear that school police would increase the role of federal criminal law in local policies governing school management and student discipline.

The NAACP-led coalition fears that a greater presence of police in schools will likely lead to more African-Americans being treated as criminals.

“Instead of addressing infrequent, serious threats to safety, police in schools often respond to minor student misbehavior by handcuffing, arresting and criminalizing the young people they were intended to protect,” said a statement from Judith Browne Dianis, co-director of the Advancement Project.

“A police presence makes us feel unsafe and unwelcome in our own schools,” claimed Tanisha Dennard, a spokeswoman with the Youth Justice Coalition, which is a member of the Dignity in Schools Campaign that is pushing for discipline-quotas.

“Police are trained to stop and prevent crime on the streets, not to mediate problems that may come up between young people in a school,” she said. “When we go to school, we go there to learn, to be students, not to be treated like criminals.”

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