Recently, a video was released of what seems to be a police officer violently handling a female student in a South Carolina high school classroom. However, it was not an officer on campus that day, but a school resource officer, “a hybrid educational, correctional, and law officer.” As violent situations involving students and school resource officers become more common, it has become unclear whether or not officers are actually correcting behavior or engaging in brutal behavior.
The role of a school resource officer, or SRO, is to decrease the amount of juvenile delinquency by building up better relationships between youths and officials. With an SRO on campus, students will have already been exposed to dealing with authority figures and better understand how to interact with them. Having SROs that can abuse the power of arresting bestowed upon them by the school district does the exact opposite.
With almost 64 percent of high schools having SROs on campus according to the National Center for Education Statistics, students should feel more protected and secure from disturbances they may encounter during the school year, but this is not true for all students.
This is evident in how minorities especially have been targeted by these officials. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, Latino and black students make up more than 95 percent of school based arrests. A federal report from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights showed that although black students only made up 16 percent of school populations, 31 percent of them were arrested due to school related incidents. Playing the race card may be a touchy subject but the numbers show that minorities are more exposed to mistreatment at schools by SROs. No student of any race should be treated with violence simply for the sake of discipline.
SROs have the capability of being no different from actual officers–the same ones who have been known to use excessive force on the street. In fact, with the power to make arrests at will, the only difference between the two is that an SRO’s purpose is to help educate students during school hours.
The brutality and danger that students may face is a major problem if they continue to be exposed to potentially dangerous situations like these. The female student was not the only one to have been violently handled by an SRO. In another incident during October in Oklahoma City, an officer attacked a 16-year-old male student after the student cursed at the officer and got into an aggressive stance. The unarmed student’s only misdemeanor was walking through the halls without a pass and he was still assaulted.
The situation also escalated very quickly. What seemed to be only a disciplinary problem quickly became a full-blown criminal issue in mere minutes. SROs should be the ones to de-escalate an issue rather than blow it further out of proportion. They are not doing any good if they only create a bigger mess rather than fix the already existing one that could be solved in a number of other ways.
This does not mean that all SROs are dictators that will use violence whenever they please. It is just impossible to ignore those that do use violence over excessively and could cause serious problems on campus. Students should not be afraid of what should be an authority figure they can easily communicate with and talk to if they ever have any problems.