Uproar as Armed Forces reserves prepare to patrol schools

Some have dubbed it a measure “only a dictatorship would adopt”, but the truth is that Portugal’s schools could soon be patrolled by Portugal’s Armed Forces.

The news came this week after the Council of Ministers confirmed it has approved changes to the law, now allowing members of the Reserved Armed Forces to monitor schools.

The goal is to see that “school rules are respected”, while also ensuring that “no verbal or physical attacks are made within the school community”, a source from the Ministry of Education told Lusa news agency.

It is not clear yet how and where the forces are to be deployed.

The source said only that they will patrol the schools that are most in need, and confirmed that they will not replace the PSP police’s Escola Segura programme.

Few have taken kindly to the announcement, however.

Jorge Bacelar Gouveia, a specialist in constitutional law from Lisbon’s Universidade Nova, says the idea is “absurd”.

“Monitoring schools is not a military job,” he said in Lisbon. “Armed Forces are used to dealing with enemies – and now they’re going to be dealing with children!”

“Only authoritarian regimes have Armed Forces adopting roles of policing or internal security,” he added, stressing he hopes the measure is stopped in its tracks.

“We didn’t ask for this,” say school principals

The idea has also been given a resounding thumbs-down by Portugal’s association of public schools (ANDAEP), which says what is needed are “trained janitors”, not soldiers.

“This is a measure that came out of nowhere,” said the association’s vice-president Filinto Lima.

“What we need are qualified janitors,” he stressed, adding that soldiers will not solve the problems in Portugal’s schools.

The Communist Party (PCP) has also slammed the idea in a statement: “Members of the Armed Forces are not trained for this kind of job.”