Do Police Officers in Schools Help or Harm Youth?
Date:  04-17-2013

Report finds children often criminalized for minor infractions when schools have “resource officers’ on duty
The term “school resource officer” (SRO) conjures up a vision of a librarian-type school official with stacks of old-fashioned encyclopedias and dusty dictionaries on shelves behind a modern computer with instant internet access to just about any resource a schoolchild might need. But, terms can be deceiving. Resource officers are police officers that patrol schools or sit in their own little space inside a school building. Although serious criminal activity can occur at a school, a resource officer’s job often entails arresting young people for minor violations, thus criminalizing them forever.

Resource officers have been around for some time, but after the horrific mass murder of 20 children and six school staff members at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT many school districts are debating whether to put police in their schools as a safety measure. And while the NRA and others are actively promoting that idea, critics claim that a police presence in schools can open the door to the school-to-prison pipeline. A Justice Policy Institute report, Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools claims that children in a school that has a police officer on duty are more likely to be arrested for minor infractions. The report states, “School resource officers interfere with the responsibility of schools to educate all students…First, SROs directly send youth into the justice system, which carries with it a lifetime of negative repercussions and barriers to education and employment. Second, in many school districts an arrest or referral to the justice system also means suspension and expulsion from school.” To read the full report Click here to go to website.

An April 12 article in the New York Times found that children attending a school that has a school resource officer are more likely to end up in juvenile court than those attending a school without a police presence.

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