Since the Columbine shootings of 1999, educational institutions across the country have worked to reduce campus violence by introducing school site police officers, surveillance systems, drug testing and zero-tolerance policies. Many agree that the intention behind these measures is laudable, but extreme cases of rule enforcement—like the 2010 arrest of a twelve-year-old for doodling on her desk in class–have caused some to reappraise the educational system’s approach to safety. After visiting schools across the nation, journalist Annette Fuentes discovered the prevalence of prison-like security measures, harsh zero-tolerance policies, and the network of school officials interested in their perpetuation. In her new book, Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, Fuentes describes the effect of this police atmosphere on children, especially those of ethnic minorities, while offering hopeful suggestions for change. But can conflict resolution programs and peer intervention really alleviate school problems? And are violent kids actually the foremost threat to children’s safety in a place more sheltered than some homes or neighborhoods?
Annette Fuentes, freelance journalist working out of the San Francisco area and author of Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse