Rolling Stone Digs Into Military Surplus Equipment Ban for Schools

MRAP

Pictured: LAUSD’s district police department got one of these through the surplus program but returned it after news got out.

Kudos to Rolling Stone and writer Molly Knefel for digging out the school district impact of the White House announcement on civilian law enforcement use of military surplus gear.

As you may recall, it was revealed last year that civilian law enforcement agencies including school police departments were getting military gear including armored personnel carriers and rocket launchers. Not too long ago, the Obama administration rolled back that program — but none of the stories I saw spent much time going into the impact (if any) on school police departments that have like others gotten increasingly militarized.  (ProPublica has been doing a big series on under-trained and under-supervised armed guards who are often hired in schools but that’s another story).

In a May 29, 2015 story, Knefel and Rolling Stone go right at the issue in their piece (What Obama’s New Military-Equipment Rules Mean for K-12 School Police).  Under the new guidance issued by the White House, K-12 school districts are no longer eligible, according to Knefel. The ban is partly the result of a campaign by the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and Texas Appleseed.  But the ban won’t hit all districts the same. “Those with a dedicated K-12 school police department, like Los Angeles [and NYCDOE], are now excluded” from getting the military surplus gear. “But there’s no language in the executive order about schools that don’t have their own police departments” which are the vast majority in Texas and elsewhere. “What’s more, the new Obama administration rules do not clearly specify whether, or when, school districts across the country that have obtained weapons through the 1033 program will have to give them back.”

Figuring out the education-related angles to broad policy decisions like the Obama military surplus equipment guidance is an important thing for education news outlets and others to do — along with digging out and reporting the actual information. Glad to see that being done here.

Alexander Russo

Alexander Russo is a freelance education writer who has created several long-running blogs such as the national news site This Week In Education, District 299 (about Chicago schools), and LA School Report. He can be reached on Twitter at @alexanderrusso, on Facebook, or directly at alexanderrusso@gmail.com.