The startling cover of the newly released book Homeroom Security by Aaron Kupchik shows a photograph of a police squad wearing helmets and bullet-proof vests with guns pointed out at the viewer. They are standing next to a row of lockers.
But author Kupchik, associate professor in the department of sociology and criminal justice at the University of Delaware, is not trying to alarm the reader about increased violence in schools rather he is raising an alarm about “School Discipline in an Age of Fear”, the subtitle of his book. He maintains that police officers, armed security guards, surveillance cameras and metal detectors are part of the disturbing new landscape at many schools. These are coupled with what he sees as harsh policing and punishment strategies based on the assumption that they keep children safe. His argument is that these types of policies prioritize the rules rather than the students and their problems. So are students really being kept healthy and safe?
Portraying cases of actual incidents in schools, Kupchick sits in on conversations with teachers and students being questioned, finding a pattern of chaos in schools that is dealt with by more punishment, kicking students out of class, or suspending them from school, often leaving fundamental problems unresolved and resulting in students getting even more behind in their studies. Students are often not listened to, the author says. Many live with poverty, crime, gangs or troubles at home. He describes this increasingly punitive policy as a new school-criminal justice partnership.
Kupchik is also the author of Judging Juveniles: Prosecuting Adolescents in Adult and Juvenile Courts, also published by New York University Press, and winner of the 2007 American Society of Criminology Michael J. Hindelang Award for the Most Outstanding Contribution to Research in Criminology.