Want to stop crime in schools before it starts? Send in the lawyers

The UK Government’s response to reports that crime rates are rising in schools is to talk in terms of tougher policing and greater protection. ‘Crime and violent behaviour have no place in our schools,’ said a spokesperson.

Students and Lawyers discussing the Law at Burlington Danes Academy

‘We have put teachers back in charge of the classroom,’ they said. ‘They can search pupils without consent, confiscate prohibited items and use reasonable force to remove disruptive pupils from the classroom when necessary.

‘We know many good schools already work with the police and other organisations to educate pupils and protect them from harm and involvement in crime.’

Which is all very well, but seems a little inadequate – and arguably unhelpful.

For a start, beginning from a standpoint that kids are probably criminals that need protecting from each other is likely to alienate the kids and, well, turn them into criminals; that is, people who don’t follow society’s rules because they’re imposed and appear arbitrary, and feel they have no stake in them.

It’s a shame the Government’s reaction is to see pupils as the problem, rather than as people that benefit from education about the law: what it is, why it’s there, how it gets there, how it affects people and why society criminilises certain behaviours. It’s a double shame because this Government wrote a citizenship curriculum that is supposed to do that.

So, businesses are stepping in. More than 40 law firms, in-house legal teams and chambers put their staff into schools as part of our Lawyers in Schools programme. Big companies like Addleshaw Goddard, Olswang, Barclays, Verizon, JP Morgan, Mitsubushi and BBC Worldwide work with groups of school students to connect them to the legal framework that governs their lives.

Of course, it’s not just altruistic: businesses are keen on Lawyers in Schools because it connects them with communities, offers pro bono opportunities and breaks down barriers between young people and the legal profession. But they also like it because they see a positive change in attitudes towards the law and, as a result, towards other people.

So, if you want to help schools reconnect young people with society, send in your lawyers.

Views expressed on this blog are not necessarily those of the Citizenship Foundation.

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