Armed police officers patrol hallways and grounds in schools across the country. A new white paper from the ACLU, Policing in Schools: Developing a Governance Document for School Resource Officers in K-12 Schools, argues that these schools need to have a formal governing document for such officers.
Without such a document, the report says, school resource officers (SROs) “may not have a clear understanding of their role within the larger educational context or the rights and needs of the children they are intended to serve; they may inadvertently, and indeed counterproductively, create an adversarial environment that pushes students, particularly at-risk students, out of school rather than engaging them in a positive educational environment.” The report points to studies that indicate the number of children arrested or referred to court for school discipline has grown in recent years.
Policing in Schools lays out a framework that establishes an SRO’s role in a school as promoting the school’s educational mission by enhancing safety, not punishing students, and that expects the SRO to make use of nonpunitive techniques as much as possible to accomplish this.
An appendix provides a model governance document for an SRO program that establishes principles for understanding the role of SROs in an educational context, guidelines for determining when a disciplinary situation becomes a law enforcement matter, guarantees of students’ rights, measures to ensure transparency and accountability, and minimum training requirements for SROs.
Policing in Schools, which was released in late August, can be downloaded at www.aclu.org/racialjustice/edu/40816pub20090824.html.