Do cops have a place in our classes?

Jake Mireles, Opinion Editor

Across the nation, School Resource Officers (SROs) have become a common sight in the educational setting. SROs are “sworn law-enforcement [officers] with arrest powers who [work], either full or part-time, in a school setting. Nearly all SROs are armed (about 91 percent, according to federal data), and most carry other restraints like handcuffs as well,” according to an article by EducationWeek. School districts nationwide have looked to contract SROs as a deterrent against school shootings amid the growing epidemic of gun violence in the United States. This maintains a certain sense of security that a “good guy with a gun” will be on the premises to aid other law enforcement in ending a confrontation with a school shooter, should the situation arise; recently, however, SROs’ presence in schools have come under heavy scrutiny for their involvement and conduct when it comes to handling student incidents. This raises the question: Are SROs doing more harm than good in an educational setting?

In its simplest form, an SRO’s purpose is to ensure the safety and security of the campus they serve. Despite this, SROs have been found to be at the center of questionable force and misconduct complaints on multiple occurrences. According to an article from The New York Times, “In Orange County, Fla., in November, a school resource officer was fired after a video showed him grasping a middle school student’s hair and yanking her head back during an arrest after students fought near school grounds. A few weeks later, an officer assigned to a school in Vance County, N.C., lost his job after he repeatedly slammed an 11-year-old boy to the ground.” These incidents largely arise when schools rely on SROs to discipline unruly students instead of resorting to traditional administrative punishment like in-school suspension or parent contact. 

Additionally, an SRO’s presence has directly led to the death of a student According to an article from the Los Angeles Times, School Safety Officer Eddie Gonzales was charged with the murder of 15-year-old Manuela “Mona” Rodriguez after he “fired into a fleeing vehicle in late September after a fight between [Rodriguez] and an unidentified 15-year-old girl one block from Millikan High School.” Rodriguez was struck by the SRO’s gunfire, leaving her with injuries that resulted in her death. While these incidents are only anecdotal, they represent a trend of questionable conduct that raises doubts surrounding the effectiveness of the program. While an SRO should ensure the safety of the community they serve, time and time again their presence has resulted in an escalation of violence. 

SROs have been popularized as a solution to the epidemic of school shootings that have ravaged the United States. Their effectiveness in solving this problem has come into question, with research showing that SROs “do little to reduce on-campus violence or mass shootings,” according to the National Education Association.

SROs have proven to be a fear-inducing presence to the students they are supposed to protect. Therefore, school districts should not allow the utilization of SROs to discipline students and instead should explore other avenues to ensure the safety of their student body.