Students Call For An End To Police Officers In Schools
For the better part of two decades, particularly since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, many public schools across the United States have had armed, uniformed police officers roaming the halls. Called school resource officers (SRO) in most jurisdictions, the officers are sworn members of local police departments with the same powers to make arrests and carry out other police duties as their counterparts.
However, some advocates say they do little to protect the kids in the halls, and indeed, in some cases may even do more harm than good. For example, during the February 2018 shooting at Parkland, Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a school resource officer drew criticism for not entering the building as the gunman was firing. Similarly, in 2015, the matter of over-policing in public schools came to national attention after an SRO in South Carolina was caught on video slamming a female student to the ground.
And, in the wake of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Department officer, some say that the time has come to do away with the practice altogether.
Leanne Nunes, who graduated this year from a New York City high school, says that for the past 4 years, “it’s [been] basically TSA every morning,” referring to the metal detection and other screenings passengers have to go through at the airport.
“My entire high school career—had it not been for the pandemic—would have been spent being policed every day in school. It’s too much… Police do not belong in our schools,” she said.
Similarly, Joseeduardo Ramos-Valdez, a senior at Linda Abril Educational Academy in Phoenix, says that SROs in his building are more intimidating than helpful.
“Officers don’t keep students safe,” Ramos-Valdez said.
In some places, the students’ calls are being heard. Already, Minneapolis Public Schools have cut ties with its police department, and in Portland, the local superintendent said that the district is discontinuing the practice of having SROs in the building and is instead increasing the budget for counselors and social workers.
In contrast, Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, says that SROs can be a “positive presence” in schools when they’re selected and trained properly.
“I hate to see a school district miss an opportunity to have really good SROs helping to restore a community and move criminal justice forward in a positive way,” he said.