Yesterday's first-of-its-kind federal guidance on school discipline included warnings to school district leaders that school resource officers are too frequently pulled into routine disciplinary matters, an action that can spark unnecessary interactions between students and the criminal justice system and lead to overly harsh penalties for nonviolent issues, leaders of the U.S. departments of Education and Justice said. Civil rights groups say the issue, along with overly broad zero-tolerance policies, are major contributors to the "school-to-prison pipeline."
The National Association of School Resource Officers, the nation's largest organization of school-based police officers, agrees with the recommendation that resource officers should stay out of school discipline, Executive Director Mo Canady said in a statement:
"For nearly a quarter of a century, NASRO has trained school resource officers not to be involved in school discipline. Problems arise, however, when school administrators fail to receive education on the appropriate roles of school-based police officers and when law enforcement officers are placed on campuses without careful selection and proper training."
Schools around the country have added more on-campus officers in recent years in an effort to boost security measures following high-profile acts of school violence. Groups like the Dignity in Schools Campaign, a coalition of civil rights and student organizations, have argued against such measures, even urging members of Congress not to approve additional federal funding for school resource officers.
But proper training of both officers and school leaders can ensure that expectations for officers' roles in schools are clear, Canady said.
"NASRO also strongly agrees with administration recommendations that school systems and law enforcement agencies create detailed, written memoranda of understanding before placing officers on campus," the organization said in a news release. "These documents should clearly define the roles and responsibilities of both police officers and school administrators."