George Floyd’s death ramped up the momentum of what many Civil Rights leaders are calling part II of the movement begun by Dr. King and many leaders of that era. One of the most recent deaths in Atlanta of Rayshard Brooks has made Atlanta parents join together in the call for equity in schools for Black and brown children and also for the removal of SROs (school resource officers).
Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said it best on the CNN special Matter Who Matter, “no amount of sensitivity training is going to change the systemic racism embedded in our systems.” And she’s right! Our law enforcement system has a long history of abuse and excessive force leading to the deaths of Black and brown citizens.
SRO’s Should Be Replaced in Schools with Counselors!
This brings to the question, should P-12 school districts remove armed SRO officers from schools? SROs should be removed from schools. Schools need full-time nurses, more counselors for each grade level, family engagement coordinators, not only through Title I but also for bilingual families, and more importantly, more special education and reading teachers. School districts can find better ways to have resource officers support the external property of schools during lunch hours and dismissal.
Call to Action! Please sign and share this petition to ensure there are more counselors and schools and NOT cops: https://bit.ly/copsoutofschools
If SROs/cops are removed, school leaders would be forced to rethink behavior and discipline policies. Furthermore, they would be able to hire professional student support staff such as counselors, behavior interventionists and social workers to help heal our children.
I believe this is desperately needed across the nation. Changing policies will require school districts to create new procedures; procedures that should be fair and ensure equitable outcomes for all students. Discipline needs to be handled differently as most public school district behavior, discipline, and attendance policies are biased against children of color. If we worked more cooperatively and collaboratively with families and communities, we can implement better social justice and SEL programs.
We cannot forget that governors are cutting education budgets to place more money in law enforcement and correctional facilities.
School resource officers add a heightened sense of fear in schools while declining the school’s culture. I have witnessed SROs slam Black boys into the ground, push Black girls against lockers, and pat Latino male students down for having too many bags when they were simply carrying soccer equipment. They have biases against children of color and create a more tense and divisive school culture based on fear.
SROs are more likely to arrest students of color rather than having those students be disciplined by school administrators. Organizations such as Gwinnett SToPP and Dignity in Schools have been advocating for the removal of SROs for over the last decade. The reality is SROs are more likely to place our children in handcuffs and into the school to prison pipeline.
It’s a clear sign of poor leadership when school leaders would rather advocate for SROs in the discipline process than for school counselors. I believe that these schools are doing a disservice to the communities they are serving. Schools who are utilizing SROs for discipline and don’t have a counselor for each grade level, male teachers of color, or a strong family engagement program, aren’t actively seeking solutions but an easy way out of having to engage with children of color. Moreover, the district is probably getting some kickback for the number of students of color suspended and placed in the juvenile system.
School districts are using SROs to fix the problem created with the lack of training in the teacher preparation program for classroom management. This is further perpetuated through biased policies for how schools handle attendance, behaviors, and discipline.
I believe SROs should be used only to protect students, staff, and teachers from external forces that may bring harm to the school including school shootings, gang wars, etc. If schools build strong correction action programs as opposed to discipline programs with cops, then the role of SROs wouldn’t be so heavily sought after by those who don’t want to truly empower or educate children of color.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.