Bringing police into public schools is a trend that exploded in the 1990s, after high-profile school shooting incidents at Columbine and Jonesboro.
When a reader asked a question about school resource officers, we realized how little we knew about these officers.
Are school resource officers law enforcement officers? Disciplinarians? Counselors or educators? Let’s take a look at school resource officers – what they do, training requirements, effectiveness, and more.
What Roles Do School Resource Officers Play?
We found little agreement about the roles school resource officers play. Some organizations describe them as law enforcement officers or school security personnel. Other groups describe them as “co-teachers” with general ed teachers who are responsible for classroom management, so kids don’t view school resource officers as disciplinarians!
School resource officers wear many hats, including:
* preventing crime, gangs and drug activity in and around schools
* educating students about crime prevention and safety
* developing community justice programs
* teaching conflict-resolution and problem-solving skills to students, teachers and parents
* teaching students “law-related information”
* making arrests and issuing citations
* acting as hall monitors, truancy enforcers, crossing guards, and operators of security devices
The COPS in Schools Program describes three roles for school resource officers:
* problem-solver and community resource liason
* safety expert and law enforcer
Education & Training
We learned that school resource officers are not certified or licensed. We found no evidence that school resource officers make schools more or less safe.
How many kids are arrested in your child’s school? In your school district? What happens to a child who is arrested and taken out of school in handcuffs?
State Departments of Education do not require school districts to keep records of police activities so we don’t have answers to these questions.
Taking School Safety Too Far? The Ill Defined Role Police Play in Schools says “School resource officers…. are not taught how to recognize manifestations of students’ disabilities. As a result, students with special needs, students of color, and students from disadvantaged communities face a heightened risk of arrest.”
According to The Facts about School Violence, “Little of the violence reported for children and youth occurs in school; nor does national data show that the problem is getting worse.”
“With a school homicide rate of less than one in a million, the chances of violent death among juveniles are almost 40 times as great out of school as in school … national surveys consistently find that school violence has stayed essentially stable or decreased slightly over time …” Facts about School Violence at http://www.indiana.edu/~safeschl/facts.html
The National School Safety and Security Services collects data about school associated violence.
Has the increase in school resource officers led to an increase in arrests of young children?
Should school police officers be licensed or certified? Should they be educated about the needs of children with various disabilities? Should they receive training in appropriate ways to deal with the problem behaviors that some children with disabilities may exhibit?
Given the lack of research and lack of data about the effectiveness of school resource officers, is it a good idea to bring police into schools?
We welcome your thoughts about school resource officers in the comment box below.