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Lockdown High: how schools put the emphasis on crime, security and violence instead of freedom and education


The Guardian‘s John Harris reviews Annette Fuentes’s Lockdown High: When the Schoolhouse Becomes a Jailhouse, an investigative book on how “zero tolerance” policies have produced high-schools that “reflect a society that has become fixated on crime, security and violence.” Lockdown HighHarris points out that the insanity isn’t a mere American phenomenon, and has been enthusiastically embraced in the UK, where things are about to get much worse.

Now, as the surveillance state embeds itself in the lives of millions of children, the education bill currently making its way through parliament promises to extend teachers’ powers to search pupils to the point that, as the pressure group Liberty puts it, they will be “proportionate to terrorism investigations”. Teachers will be able not just to seize phones and computers, but wipe them of any data if they think there “is a good reason to do so” – a move of a piece with new powers to restrain pupils and issue summary expulsions.Not entirely surprisingly, education secretary Michael Gove casts all this as a matter of copper-bottomed common sense. “Our bill will put heads and teachers back in control, giving them a range of tough new powers to deal with bullies and the most disruptive pupils,” he said last year, before he used a very telling phrase: “Heads will be able to take a zero-tolerance approach.”

For many people, the idea of school discipline will still be synonymous with Victorian images of cane-wielding teachers, but we now seem to be headed for something much more insidious: authoritarianism for children, sold to students and staff using the dazzle of technology, and the modern vocabulary of the security crackdown.

And all this, you may remember, from a government whose coalition agreement promises “a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour government and roll back state intrusion”.

Only for grownups, perhaps.


Every morning, I walk my daughter to day-care, a ten minute walk in which we pass about 50 CCTVs, ending with the two over the outer and inner doors to the day-care itself. However, once we get there, there is a sign warning us that we’re not allowed to use our phones “as many phones are equipped with cameras” and that this is for the children’s safety.

School surveillance: how big brother spies on pupils

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2 Responses to “Lockdown High: how schools put the emphasis on crime, security and violence instead of freedom and education”

  1. Dr. Richard J. Caster says:

    Let’s set the record straight on school resource officers. The SRO serves three functions in the school setting: 1) law enforcement officer, 2) teacher and 3)counselor. They are primarily in schools for the protection of students and staff. They present a “resource: to troubled youth who may relate better to a person who knows what the streets are like rather than a school staff member. They are a link between the school and other agencies within the juvenile justice system and yes, they are the key defender of children when someone with a gun, student or adult, has decided to kill as many people as he can. Most parents feel a sense of security knowing there is a trained police officer working in their son or daughter’s school everyday. It is the most unique position in law enforcement and requires the most dedicated officer totally committed to students. YES; the SRO must be a highly trained tactical officer in the event shots ring out within the school. Seconds count in saving lives and his or her effectiveness is the students only hope of survival. To characterize the SRO in any other way is a showing of ignorance to the role and function of the school resource officer.

    Richard J. Caster, Ed.D
    Former Executive Director
    National Association of School Resource Officers

  2. Joseph Bail says:

    Freedom of Speech?

    I find it nauseating that for the second time in four months I find it necessary to respond to someone’s worthless diatribe concerning a topic that they don’t have the foggiest idea about or the intestinal fortitude to research properly the training that it encompasses. The amazing thing about America is that Freedom of the Press also means the freedom to bullshit and the ability to misinform the public.

    I have spent the past forty years in law enforcement and recently retired with the rank of Major in one of the United States most violent areas. Most of my career I was involved with SWAT/Tactical teams as an operator and Commander. With that in mind I can speak with some authority on the topic and unlike most of those writers who specialize in “yellow journalism” I will sign my name and not hide behind an anonymous source or blog name.

    If I didn’t know better I would have thought from the wording of the article that the author was writing during the German occupation of Europe. “Police State, summer parole, regime, the government’s hybrid school/prison system, etc” the terminology is borrowed and unoriginal at best.

    I have participated in training scenarios where we used students, faculty and staff as part of the reality that is needed to prepare for an event in America. I don’t have both sides of the issue in either Illinois or New York and won’t comment on the pros or cons of the training that took place. I will say in all of the training that I have been involved with the participants were aware of what was going to occur in advance of the training and even with that knowledge many of those same participants were rattled by the reality.

    The author describes School Resource Officers as prowling the halls in search of misbehavior. Nothing could be further from the truth. SRO’s serve as law related educators, problem solvers, community policing liaison and only a small percentage of what they do involves arrest and investigation.

    In addition to all of the above duties the SRO needs to be the first line of defense in protecting our children from the likes of a terrorist event like Beslan, Russia, or the home grown degenerates that attacked our schools in Bailey, Colorado, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania, Littleton, Colorado, and Blacksburg, Virginia.

    Here again I can speak with some authority since I did accompany Dr. Giduck, who was attacked in the article, to Russia, where I was involved in interviewing the men that fought bravely against the Beslan terrorist during an 11 hour gunbattle. And those were Russia’s most elite special forces, not police who we will turn to in America. From that interview I remember one leading Russian commander telling us to warn American law enforcement that two things would occur during a terrorist attack against one of our schools: first, there was going to be a battle, and second, people were going to die. Basically he was telling us “wake up America and get your head out of the sand” because in today’s terrorist filled world we are not ready for this to occur on the home front. And if bringing that message to America means that I shouldn’t be allowed to protect children, then maybe I too will rely on the First Amendment and people like Fuentes and Grigg to come save me.

    From his experiences in Russia, and from going to the sites of, examining, and de-briefing the special forces who fought out such battles in places like Ma’alot, Israel; Budyonvosk, Russia; Kizlyar, Russia; and Mumbai, India, Dr. Giduck – perhaps having been to more of these than any other single professional on the planet – has come to the recognition that when the next terror attacks occur, or should Beslan ever happen in America, that the police are the ones who are going to get thrown into the battle. They will not get to sit safely on the sidelines while the special forces, Delta Force, SEAL Six, or even FBI’s HRT handle it for them. Recognizing this, he tells them that only in the event of such a battle against trained, vicious, torturous and battle hardened terrorists that at that point the police need to recognize that they will not be “peace officers administering the law to a civilian population, that they will be soldiers in a war, and that they are going to have to be mentally prepared to fight it as soldiers in a war.”

    In direct contrast to what Fuentes and Grigg have accused, he tells them this so that they know they cannot worry about their safety, but that “children will be dying” and that “in America, for our most innocent, no one else is coming for them.” These are the exact statements he makes in trainings. I have heard him speak dozens and dozens of times, and there has never been a deviation from that exact message, or the that specific context in which police will, at that point, have to alter their view of who they are, what they will be called upon to do, and how much they are going to have to risk to ensure that they do not walk out of a building with 314 dead hostages, 186 of them children, as at Beslan, or 172 dead as at Mumbai. For Fuentes to have been in one of his trainings and to have twisted it to such a degree, bespeaks a willful falsification that is morally repugnant and intolerable, and very likely legally actionable. For Grigg to have perpetuated it with his own malignant outrage and hypocritical claim of being a “self appointed” journalist would be comedic if this issue and his libelous attack on a qualified professional were not so outrageous.

    As to these would-be “journalists’” claims that Dr. Giduck claims to be an expert at all, they have lied. They have found nothing, anywhere, where he has made such a claim. In fact, when introduced at conferences and trainings that statement is often made about him, in response to which the first thing he says is that he is not an expert, but that he has had the opportunity to study these events with true experts, and his only role is to communicate the best information he got from them to America’s police, teachers and government agents to keep our most innocent safe. That’s all he has ever said. I have heard him say it countless times.

    Nevertheless, he is an expert, and a world class one at that. He may not have spent any lengthy time in the U.S. military, but I know first hand of his exposure to the special forces of numerous other countries and what he has learned from them. He has been an instructor to our Green Berets, even including the Delta Force. He works with a founder of SEAL Team Six. He has spent more years traveling the world studying the major mass-hostage sieges conducted by terrorists than any other person, and probably any other government. His doctoral dissertation was on the evolution of terrorist tactics in such attacks, creating a predictive model of what the next such attack will be like. This will soon be released as a book; one that everyone can and should benefit from.

    He has a master’s degree in Russian studies and a Ph.D. in Middle East Studies. Despite that, he has never claimed to be an expert in Islamic studies or Islam at all. The most he has ever said when asked questions about Islam is that he is not an Islamic scholar, but that due to his studies he has read the Koran, Hadiths, etc., has studied some of Muhammed’s life, and may have a little more knowledge than the average person. To claim otherwise is to, once again, defame this man through the publication of lies. Moreover, he did know personally the head of the KGB for St. Petersburg, but has never once claimed to have been “mentored” by him. And as to his in depth analysis of Russian handling of mass-hostage sieges, the fact remains that Russia has had to deal with four of them between 1995 and 2004, more than any other country, and so there is much to learn from their experiences. To take a contrary position smacks of the worst kind of journalistic dilettantism. If, in fact, the “political” position of Grigg and Fuentes was sound, you must ask why they felt the need to make so many false statements and libelously attack a devoted professional to convince everyone?

    America’s police are woefully behind the power curve in dealing with terrorism, we constantly train for the last fight when our opponent is preparing for the next battle. When we tell our police they need to act like soldiers it is because in response to such attacks they will be fighting the militarily trained terrorist. To do this they need to stay alive first. A dead cop can’t save a child. But even in America we have already been outmatched. Cho carried 377 rounds into Norris Hall at VA Tech. Morrison had hundreds of rounds at the Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, CO and Roberts had more than 600 rounds in the Amish School in Nickel Mines, PA. Klebold and Harris, too, had hundreds of rounds at Columbine. Without proper body armor (which no single SRO wears in schools) and enough bullets, how are they to protect your children against that?

    Finally, the article claims that officers did things that, if actually true, in my stepped over the line of legality, in my humble opinion. The answer, however, is not to attack all police for the indiscretions of a few. Fire them and charge the offenders. Bad cops should be dealt with so that the vast majority of police officers can move on and protect our country and its citizens, even yellow journalists like Grigg and Fuentes.

    Major Joseph M. Bail, Jr. (ret.)
    Chester Police Department
    Chester, Pennsylvania

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