Opinion: School resource officers do more harm than good

Illustration by Mattheau Faught

School resource officers are the law enforcement officers responsible for keeping schools and students safe and preventing crimes from happening on school campuses. More often than not, they create more issues than they solve.

The implementation of zero-tolerance policies and school resource officers have massively contributed to the school-to-prison pipeline, the trend in which students in predominantly diverse, heavily populated and underfunded schools are severely punished or arrested at school and placed into the juvenile justice system. Whether intentional or not, this increases their chances of ending up in the hands of the judicial system as adults.

Arrests by SROs often disproportionately affect students of color. African American and Latino students have been proven to be most likely arrested in school with an SRO present than their white classmates, according to the Justice Policy Institute.

Do you really still feel safe with the implementation of SROs in your kids’ or siblings’ schools? Isn’t one of the goals in most schools to create a safe learning environment? For many African American and Latino students the presence of law enforcement in their schools creates an environment that is filled with unease and intimidation.

As someone who has had the displeasure of having to deal with SROs I can wholeheartedly say that having an officer watching your every move never made me feel safer. It made me feel paranoid even though I was doing nothing wrong.

Apart from being the main contributors to the school-to-prison pipeline, SROs and zero-tolerance policies have been shown to increase the suspension rates in school which then increase the dropout rate. It has been proven that students who have been suspended in the past are more likely to drop out then students who have not, so if the presence of SROs and zero tolerance policies affect the suspension rate then they directly affect the dropout rate.

Lastly, when a student is arrested in school for whatever they may have done, they will face some pretty big roadblocks in their future. When they apply to college, for example, they will be asked about their past criminal record. If the college still chooses to accept them they will have a hard time obtaining financial aid. It is completely unfair for a young adult’s life to be so limited because of a small mistake (which often did not even warrant an arrest) they made when they were in high school or even middle school.

I personally believe that SROs have no business being in schools because they create an intimidating and hypervigilant environment which affects the student’s ability to learn. They  also put many students on a fast track to prison. I believe a more effective strategy for a safer learning environment would be to take some of the police funding and put it toward hiring counselors and mental health professionals and implementing programs like positive behavioral interventions. We should also implement restorative justice which rewards positive behavior instead of severely punishing bad behavior.

— Bryan Gomez is a contributor and a journalism major

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