school safety

John Oliver Investigates Role of Police in Schools — And Shows They Don’t Keep Kids Safe

“They definitely deserve better than the fundamental lie the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy who can arrest a five-year-old.”

Screenshot of John Oliver on Last Week Tonight about school police
Last Week Tonight / HBO

John Oliver recently destroyed the idea that adding more police into the classrooms is anything but a completely terrible idea, showing that not only does the increased presence of cops in schools do little to curb school shootings, but their added presence has a negative effect on students.

School shootings — and preventing them, whether it be through gun control or “hardening school security” has been top of mind since the mass shooting at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, a few weeks ago, in which 19 children and 2 teachers were murdered. While Democrats have pushed to make it harder for people to buy certain guns by passing gun control legislation, Republicans have thrown around other ideas — like increasing police presence on school campuses. Since 1999, 6,500 cops have been hired to patrol school halls with $750 million of federal money.

However, a recent segment on Last Week Tonight ripped this idea — and other floated ideas that do everything except reform gun laws — completely apart.

The segment played clips from several news personalities, including one from Fox News that suggested a variety of measures instead of gun control. One person advocated for artistic blankets to be hung on school windows that double as ballistic blankets as a viable solution to kids getting killed in classrooms.

“What are you talking about? ‘Use a blanket’ is not a strategy for stopping deaths during a school shooting,” John said. “It’s barely a solution for ‘there’s a bird in the house.'”

John spent most of the segment debunking the myth that adding more police officers into schools is the best plan of action to reduce school shootings, which is a strategy Republicans are advocating for.

He cited a 2019 study from the Journal of Adolescent Health that looked at 179 school shootings and found that in those 179 schools, having police on campus did not the severity of incidents. Literally zero schools were found to have a less severe mass shooting. “The presence of a school resource officer was unassociated with any reduction in school shooting severity,” the study concluded.

John then dug into studies done in places where police are present in schools and found that school police have arrested a total of 54,321 students in the 2017-2018 calendar year. Those arrested, the study found, are often the most vulnerable students: disproportionately disabled students and students of color. Students of disabilities are 2.9 times more likely to be arrested in school than those without disabilities, and 31.6 percent of students arrested in schools were Black — more than twice their share of enrollment. John made the point that police funding would be better used for more resources, counselors, and nurses that protect students.

As it stands, per the segment, 14 million students attend schools with police but without a counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker. Over half of schools have a sworn police officer on campus at least once a week.

“When we throw more cops into schools as an easy way out of that difficult and necessary conversation, we not only fail to keep our kids safe from gun violence we condemn them to a system that criminalizes the very essence of childhood,” John explained.

“Kids deserve to be annoying without being arrested, to be sad and angry without being body slammed. They deserve to have tantrums, throw carrots, do science experiments, talk s*** and carve their names into stuff without risking being in the back of a police car.”

“They definitely deserve better than the fundamental lie the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy who can arrest a five-year-old.”