School Resource Officers Do Not Belong in Our Nation’s Schools

July 24, 2020
School Resource Officers Do Not Belong in Our Nation’s Schools

For Immediate Release

Contact: David Card
202.408.9514 x122
[email protected]

WASHINGTON, DC – Many stories in the media portray school resource officers (SROs) as a benign, neutral, or even positive presence in schools. However, the data shows that for children with disabilities, especially for those who are children of color, this is false. As is true with police outside of school, SROs arrest children with disabilities who are children of color at higher rates than their peers. Additionally, the data shows that children with disabilities who are children of color are subjected to higher rates of restraint than their peers. SROs do not make schools safer.

It only makes sense that arrest and restraint rates are up, as SROs, whose tools are generally limited to police methods, have been increasingly used to fulfill other staff roles as budgets have declined over the years. This problem will be exacerbated as school budgets are decimated by COVID-19.

It has been the experience of the Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Network, which represents hundreds of individuals in school discipline cases per year, that SROs have taken the place of other critical school staff — roles for which they are ill-suited and unprepared. SROs often act as counselors, behavior support staff, coaches, and school disciplinarians without the training or temperament to do so well. SROs are more prevalent in lower resourced schools. We have even heard of an SRO providing first aid to children because the school nurse position had been cut down to one day per week.

SROs know little about how individual children’s behavioral needs are to be addressed, especially those with complex behavioral disabilities. Initiatives to train SROs are not successful—at the end of the day, they are still police inappropriately placed in an educational setting.

NDRN Executive Director Curt Decker stated: “This trend needs to reverse immediately. SROs are police, individuals who chose law enforcement as a career. They are not trained to be counselors, coaches, assistant principals, or nurses and do not have the tools needed to do that work. Where a child attends school should not determine who bandages her knee or stops a playground bully.”

Broader efforts to address police violence across the country should not be used as a mechanism to further entrench SROs in schools under the guise of police reform. School staff positions must be filled by the individuals who chose those careers intentionally, and who were trained for them. Not by police.

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The National Disability Rights Network (NDRN) is the nonprofit membership organization for the federally mandated Protection and Advocacy (P&A) Systems and the Client Assistance Programs (CAP) for individuals with disabilities. Collectively, the Network is the largest provider of legally based advocacy services to people with disabilities in the United States.