Editorial: Inviting the police to school

Memories never truly fade. Some memories seep into nightmares and keep the nights sleepless. The worst of these nightmares walk among the living.

The proposed “Anti-Violence and School Safety Ordinance” filed by Cebu City Councilor Jose Lorenzo Abellanosa evinces deep reserves of trust in the police that, the honorable solon may have overlooked, is not shared by all citizens.

If passed into law, the ordinance mandates school authorities to submit a calendar of their activities 15 days before the beginning of a school year. Failure to do so means a penalty to be paid by the administrator. If a private school is involved, the license to operate may be revoked for non-compliance of the law.

One way to read this ordinance is to accept the proponent’s emphasis on the need for school heads to collaborate with the police in ensuring that measures are implemented to avoid “all forms of lawlessness, criminality and other threats to peace and order” in campuses, as stated in the ordinance.

During the Jan. 18, 2023 public hearing on the ordinance, Abellanosa cited the July 24, 2022 shooting incident that resulted in the death of three persons during an event that took place at a private university in Manila.

Why is it important for school heads to submit a calendar of activities to the police when the latter can get a copy from the Department of Education (DepEd) or the Commission on Higher Education (Ched)?

The police can also Google a school’s official website or visit its Facebook page since school calendars are posted publicly for students, their families and other interested members of the public.

According to SunStar Cebu public and standards editor Pachico A. Seares in his Jan. 20, 2023 column in the daily, giving the police a calendar of activities may be interpreted as an invitation for the police to be present in campus.

Does police presence trigger peace and order? Perhaps, yes, on streets and public areas without functioning street lights and CCTV cameras.

Zones notorious for crime will get decidedly more than a facelift if citizens saw the police regularly patrolling and keeping miscreants at bay.

However, inviting the police for every school fair, intramural face-off, drama fest and similar crowd-drawers will be a logistical headache, at the least.

For public schools that have to scrounge for the beneficence of outside institutions or individuals to provide snacks or honoraria for barangay tanod or parent and student volunteers to assist students crossing the streets, police presence, as an offshoot of the Abellanosa proposed ordinance, will be, pardon the pun, an overkill and undue burden on the school budget, all in the name of preventing lawlessness, criminality and other threats to peace and order.

However, if the Abellanosa ordinance is intended only to result in selective presence of the police in campuses (since there may not be enough officers on the force to attend the simultaneous face-to-face graduations and moving-up ceremonies at school closing), it may be successful at normalizing police presence on campus until students, teachers, administrators and other staff get used to seeing the police not just on the school grounds but in other places, such as classrooms and libraries.

How many parents would feel reassured that their defenceless children are in the presence of armed men and women of the law?

How would teachers encourage students to discuss interpretations and viewpoints on critical cultural theories when, mixed with the regular students, is a face or two that may or may not wear the uniform of the force, happen to be more mature in years than the rest, have “special” status seeking no academic credit and record on tape or video lectures and discussions but pass no papers on Marx, Engels, Gramsci, Althusser, Fanon and other theorists on power and counterpower?

If passed into law, the Abellanosa ordinance guarantees one thing: the end of our schools as safe spaces.