Do American school districts need military surplus armored vehicles?

I read an NPR story this morning about the San Diego School District’s shiny, new MRAP. National Public Radio’s Bill Chappell writes,

The six-wheel Caiman MRAP has an official value of around $733,000. But the San Diego school district paid only about      $5,000 to transport it, according to inewsorce.org, a website that partners with NPR member station KPBS.

MRAP is an acronym that stands for “mine-resistant, ambush protected.” Law enforcement officials trot out some pseudo-convincing reasons why these armored personnel carriers are a good resource to have around, in case “the unthinkable happens,” such as another school shooting, or for search and rescue operations. I’m not swallowing it.

Chappell also says,

San Diego isn’t the only place where an MRAP is being placed into an educational setting. Last autumn, Ohio State University acquired its own MRAP, complete with armored siding and bulletproof glass, as the StateImpact project reported. School officials said they’d likely use it on football game days — but that before that happened, they would remove the vehicle’s gun turrets.

MRAP is designed for neither law enforcement nor rescue. It’s designed to protect soldiers from mines and improvised explosive devices, to provide fire support from a top-mounted machine gun or automatic grenade launcher, and to intimidate the locals in deadly places like Afghanistan, Iraq, and Ferguson, Missouri. Do we want local law enforcement agencies rolling armored military vehicles into high school football games?

Andy Hinds, who sends his kids to school in San Diego every day, asks, “Is it really necessary?.” His article says more, and from a much closer perspective, than this blog post. Check out his article in the Tech + Health section of the Daily Beast.

I realize the money for these vehicles comes from a different bag of money than educational funds, but wouldn’t it be great if the $738, 000 dollars spent on San Diego’s MRAP had been spent instead on paying teachers, improving school infrastructure, or funding art and music programs?

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