NEW YORK, April 12 (UPI) -- The addition of more police officers in U.S. schools could see a rise in students being pushed into the criminal system for minor offenses, critics said.
Last week the National Rifle Association called for more police officers or armed guards in every school following the Newtown, Conn., shootings in December, The New York Times reported.
Hundreds of districts across the country -- including Houston, Los Angeles and Philadelphia -- already have have armed school resource officers who can issue citations for scuffles, truancy and cursing at teachers, the newspaper said.
Critics warned against the police presence, saying there has been a surge in arrests or misdemeanor charges for mostly non-violent behavior in schools that have resource officers.
"There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety," said Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland and an expert in school violence. "And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system."
Michael Nash, the presiding judge of juvenile court in Los Angeles warned against school officers handling discipline issues better referred to the principal's office.
"You have to differentiate the security issue and the discipline issue," he said. "Once the kids get involved in the court system, it's a slippery slope downhill."