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Opposition Building to APS Police Bill

March 5, 2009

Santa Fe - State lawmakers are considering a bill that would create an official police force for Albuquerque Public Schools. Supporters say it's a simple matter of creating a secure learning environment, but opponents and students argue there are higher priorities for education funding.

One of those opposing the bill is State Sen. Linda Lopez (D-Albuquerque). She says, with education funds already scarce, it makes more sense to consider intervention programs that create a safer environment for doing what schools do best - teaching life skills.

"To teach different ways of how to deal with stress, how to deal with anger management. A lot of our children, with the economic times that we are in right now, have a lot of stressors in their families."

Supporters of the bill say it would allow a school police department to apply for federal grant funds, but Sen. Lopez says that sends the wrong message, especially when security officers already are in place at schools.

"They already can carry guns on the property. Just to look for a question of money, that's not another reason why, a good reason for us to say we need to have a police agency."

Sen. Lopez and APS students have also said they worry about the trend toward criminalizing students. They say security is important, but the system isn't broken and doesn't need to be fixed. Some students say more pressing needs include providing nutritious lunches and improving the quality of education.

The bill, SB 525, sponsored by Sen. Bernadette Sanchez and Rep. Bill Ream, could eventually allow for police departments in other school districts but APS is currently the only district that would qualify.

Eric Mack, Public News Service - NM