New report: School police officers need better training so girls of color feel safe

Video of a South Carolina school resource officer pulling a student out of her desk in October of 2015 went viral and led to debate over the role of police in U.S. schools.

A report released this morning examines the rise of school-based police officers, their latitude in deciding whether to send students to the principal’s office or juvenile court and the consequences to girls of color.

Today, police officers — known as school resource officers or SROs —  are common in public schools. Nationwide, there are more than 19,000 officers in schools, up from about 100 in the 1970s, according to the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the National Black Women’s Justice Institute new report, which notes, “Although the purpose of these officers is to maintain safety and address criminal acts, an important unintended consequence is greater arrest rates and referrals in schools who retain them, with especially harsh results for girls of color. ”

The  report, “Be Her Resource: A Toolkit about School Resource Officers and Girls of Color,” builds on a report earlier this year from Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality that found black girls are regarded as older and less innocent than white counterparts, a bias that particularly affects girls between the ages of 5 and 14. Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, suggested this “adultification” contributed to the disparate discipline of black girls in schools and their harsher treatment in the juvenile justice system.

The new report provides a blueprint for schools to better train officers after many of the officers interviewed cited a lack of guidance.

Yet officers described a lack of clarity about the limitations on their role, and demonstrated that they have not received sufficient training to implement culturally competent and gender-responsive approaches to girls of color. This gap presents a unique opportunity for SROs and girls of color to collaboratively create a definition of safety in schools through effective and respectful communication,
trauma-informed and healing-centered responses, and punitive roles limited strictly to criminal law enforcement.

Among the recommendations:

  • Clearly delineate law enforcement roles and responsibilities in formal agreements.
  • Collect and review data that can be disaggregated by race and gender.
  • Implement non-punitive, trauma-informed responses to girls of color.
  • Offer specialized training to officers and educators on race and gender issues and children’s mental health.

In their interviews with researchers, girls said the SROs urged them to be “ladylike” and “respectable” or to “present themselves in schools in traditionally defined professional and non-confrontational ways.” While many people on this blog will counter there’s nothing wrong with fostering ladylike behavior, the question is whether the point is to encourage manners or subservience.

Girls of color told researchers they see bias in the responses of officers. One participant related this anecdote:

I got into an altercation with this Caucasian girl … The police officer came in there and tried to talk to me and tried to talk to her. …But like, he asked me, ‘[W]hat did you say to her?’
“Why did it have to be ‘what did I say to her?’ Why couldn’t it be, ‘Who started it first?’ or ‘What’s going on? What happened?’ …

Some states including Georgia have made it a crime to disrupt school, giving SROs the ability now to escalate student misbehaviour from school principals to criminal courts. (Interesting footnote: Disrupting school was first criminalized in the late 1960s in response to high-school and college civil rights demonstrations.) But, as earlier research has documented, many discipline decisions are subjective, based on such offenses as “willful defiance.”

The report notes:

Under these laws, SROs have charged children for behavior such as wearing too much perfume. “Disturbing-school” laws gained national notoriety in 205, when a sheriff’s deputy flipped the desk of a girl of color while she was still sitting at it and dragged her across the floor because she refused to leave class.  The girl was charged with disturbing school, and statistics indicate that she was more likely than not to end up in the court system: experts estimate that about 55 percent of cases like hers ended up in juvenile court in South Carolina, where 29,000 disturbing-school referrals were made to the state Department of Juvenile Justice between 2001-2016.

While not all charges result in convictions, many do: children have been convicted and sentenced for behavior identified by SROs that include hitting another student or engaging in a prank involving foul scented spray. In addition to the factor of subjective determinations, SROs’ enforcement actions can also result in students’ deeper involvement in the juvenile justice system by means of escalation. For example, if conflict ensues in the course of an SRO’s enforcement of a minor disciplinary violation, that student may be arrested for disorderly conduct. As a result of these and other factors, schools with SROs report higher rates of student contact with the juvenile justice system — particularly for low-level offenses — than schools without SROs.  In total, according to the U.S. Department of Education, educators arrested approximately 20,591 girls during the 2013-2014 school year.

While these statistics are startling, Black girls face particularly serious disparities. For example, Black girls are more than 2.6 times more likely to be referred to law enforcement as white girls, and almost four times as likely to be arrested.

 

Reader Comments 0

85 comments
Simon138
Simon138

Before i say anything, i'll like to apologize to CYBERWIZARDHACKatGMAILCOM. i am really sorry. I promised him, i was going to post about him if he did a complete and accurate job for me but after he performed the hack of getting me into my (then) cheating wife's phone and discovering that he also cheated on me with my brother i got carried away with everything and also was busy with the divorce. Once again i'm really sorry. CYBERWIZARDHACKatGMAILCOM is one hacker i'll like to work with again in the future, and for someone like me who owns several companies, i know how successful he's still going to be with such hardwork. He is really fast and reliable. He hacked into my cheating wife's WHATSAPP,and FACEBOOK phone faster than i even expected and saved me a whole lot of trouble and heartache. Contact him now for all your hack jobs and expect the best result. tells him i refer you to him, he's whatsapp number is +13177941276

Babycat
Babycat

Remember the DeKalb teacher and Parapro fighting in the classroom in front of the students last year?  They are "girls of color" and leading by example.

Ophelia Hawthorne
Ophelia Hawthorne

Get rid of attendance laws.  Let those that don't want to go to school be else where.  Schools will become a much nicer, safer place and those that want to learn will be among their own kind.  Just imagine not having disruptive students....teachers can teach and kids can learn.  It would be heaven. 

readcritic
readcritic

@Ophelia Hawthorne Also, taxpayers should not be fleeced repeatedly for those students who disrupt and fail over and over again. Citizen students (and illegals) are entitled to 12 years of school and should not be allowed to repeat grades at the expense of the working class taxpayer just because they goof off and refuse to be responsible for their own performance. Parents can pick up the "repeat-the-year" tab for their children who do not perform due to their own lack of effort and attendance. Insult is added to injury when these same students are then provided with tutors, summer school classes, and computer courses that give them answers for easier passing grades, all at taxpayer expense. The government rewards bad behavior.

Curt_Hoopingarner
Curt_Hoopingarner

Actually, the SRO's are there to protect more against outside influence than disciplining students.  The huge increase from 100 to 19,000 SRO's is a response to "Sandy Hook" type of problems than Student Problems.  


I have worked in schools for 9 years now and have had very, very few discipline problems and all were handled by the school administrators.  


In fact I can't imagine an Administrator bringing in an SRO if there wasn't a weapon of some kind involved.  That would be saying they couldn't do their job. 


In the case of the SRO dumping the girl on the floor, the Administrator should have just let her sit there, moved the class to another room, until her parents got there to pick her up to start her one week out of school suspension. 

c130a
c130a

@Curt_Hoopingarner  - These schools are a dumping ground for a lot of cops who were fired, or allowed to resign, for use-of-force violations or other poor behavior.  Hardly role models for young people. 

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

The high school I attended had around 1800 students and NO police officers.

Sigh....

AlreadySheared
AlreadySheared

Yeah, well, my parents' (that's a PLURAL possessive) position was that if I got in trouble at school, my punishment there was the least of my worries. Pretty much how all my friends' parents rolled, as well.

class80olddog
class80olddog

It is PC crap like this that gets people like Donald Trump elected.  Think about that!

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

{{Yawn}}

Yet another politically correct article trying to explain away the dysfunction of the black community.  The basic premise of groups such as the "National Black Women's Justice Institute" is to ignore the root causes of behavior that get these students onto the radar screen of administrators and law enforcement, and to blame the very people who have to deal with the behaviors.

In regards to the oft used video of the South Carolina incident, the student ignored numerous instructions by teachers and administrators.  When the cops are called, they are going to deal with the issue.  They are the last line.  For law enforcement officers, there is no option of walking away.


It's very simple, really.  If you don't want to garner the attention of law enforcement, then don't engage in activities that require a response from law enforcement.   And yes, there are extremely rare cases where a police officer crosses the line (such as the case of the arrest of the nurse).  In these cases, there are remedies and processes to address these situations.

Starik
Starik

@Lee_CPA2  The processes, like internal affairs, have never worked in most cases. They protect the police. What has been a game changer is video, cell phone, surveillance and dash cams which have been real game changers. I'm not sure we need police in schools except in cases where the school is out of control.  

c130a
c130a

@Starik -- If you think that police violence is "extremely rare" then you must not read newspapers very often.  Cops are becoming out of-control more often every year because they keep getting away with their bad actions.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

@Starik @Lee_CPA2

I agree that video has been a game changer.  It has probably exonerated many more police officers than it has incriminated.  Unfortunately, the tens of thousands (hundreds of thousands?) of positive police/citizen interactions each day get ignored and the one bad case such as the nurse arrest goes viral.

redweather
redweather

Just a thought, but having people in police uniforms in schools just might encourage more acting out. For kids who are prone to acting out in various ways, it is probably considered a mark of distinction among peers that they got into it with an SRO. Also wouldn't be surprised to learn that getting SROed has entered the language as an adjective. (If not yet, you read it here first.)

72DCSD99
72DCSD99

Don't like to say it, but.. Whenever you see a video of some child or children fighting another student or fighting a teacher (before the SRO gets involved) what is the ethnicity?  And how often when that happens or even when the child is being disciplined, what happens? The kid gets on their phone and calls mom or grandma and the next thing you have is relatives showing up and fighting with the teacher just like the kid.  It starts at home.  Don't take the convenient cheap shot at the school cop.  First, it's an indictment of our educational process when you have to have cops in the schools to handle 2nd graders who go ballistics.  Again, it starts at home. 

c130a
c130a

@72DCSD99  - your argument could apply equally to the violence SROs exhibit in some instances.

kaelyn
kaelyn

The only thing I ever learn from articles like this AND the responses that follow is that ignorance is a two way street. To all of the far left white apologists - nobody needs your low expectations. Making assumptions and lowering standards based on your belief that all black people are victims is b.s., and is nothing more than the liberal's version of racism. ALL students, regardless of the identifying labels attached to them, have to behave appropriately in school or face the consequences. Btw, the consequences need to be the same for ALL of the kids.

To the alt. right group - it's time to start worrying about your own kind. The media isn't adequately covering the opioid crisis in your "white communities" (whatever and wherever that is). Half of the victims probably have a daddy in the house, so there goes your theory that every two parent household is perfect. The rest are living in rural communities that big city news outlets don't routinely cover. Once all kids labeled as "white" become perfect law abiding citizens, feel free to resume the attack on "the black community" and all of its problems.

Wasn't there an article in the AJC recently about police officers being fired and then becoming SROs? Maybe that's the real story here. I get soooo tired of everything being about skin color.

SomeonesDad2
SomeonesDad2

Black girls need better parenting so  they won't be raised ignorant, and afraid of police officers.

Soybean Bob
Soybean Bob

can we please dismiss with the "of color" tag... that is uninformed and ignorant... using such a tag is meant to exclude "white"... however, please be aware white is the sum of all colors... i.e. "white" is the most colored condition that can exist in the visible spectrum... do we use the word "of color" because using the word "black" is bad??  i thought black is beautiful.. no??

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@Soybean Bob  "of color" is mostly liked used to include some Hispanics and Black people.

Starik
Starik

@class80olddog @Soybean Bob  "Colored people" is out. "People of color" is OK for some reason. I doubt either is appropriate. If we have to discuss race, try black, white, Asian, Hispanic etc. 

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

SRO should be trained how to treats kids period.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@BuckeyeGa  And kids should be trained (by their parents) on how to treat each other, teachers, and SROs.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@class80olddog @BuckeyeGa  yep but the kids don't always listen. I'm sure the parents of the kids hooked on heroin and opioids were taught not to do drugs..yet it still happened.

class80olddog
class80olddog

@BuckeyeGa @class80olddog  Yes, kids don't always listen to their parents - in "my day", if you misbehaved, you were punished (real punishment, not this ISS crap) - no matter WHAT color you were.  I was a "goody two-shoes" but I remember having to write on the blackboard, stay after school and had spankings. 

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

@class80olddog @BuckeyeGa  "in my day".."no matter WHAT color you were" is an assumption.  It could be true in your personal experience but if other personal experiences are included maybe the same thing was happening in your day.  I don't know if anyone did research on that.   The stats puts above is definitely alarming.

PJ25
PJ25

We've spent decades making excuses for why many black children can't assimilate in public schools.  When will the excuses end? 

Astropig
Astropig

@PJ25


Agree.This ^^ is just soft bigotry that assumes that these students have no control over their actions.We know that that is simply not true.

class80olddog
class80olddog

By the logic used in this column, the referees were totally biased against UGA during the game with Notre Dame, because UGA was given 50% more penalties.  Clear bias!

methuselahschild
methuselahschild

treat "girls of color" no different than any other girl or boy.. require a high bar for social interactions, for grades, for manners, for.. for ...for... to assume you need to lower the bar because of color or social status is racism and/or pandering of the worst kind.. want good outcomes.. expect and demand it happen.. accept nothing less..

Michael Campbell
Michael Campbell

I'm a teacher. This is pointing the blame in the wrong direction. If the student was doing what they are supposed to do there would be no need for the teacher to call the admin or officer. Parents need to quit looking for excuses and accept their responsibility in allowing their child to defy school and police authority even when the kid is in the wrong.

c130a
c130a

Well, you've got my support .  Now if you could only convince school administrators of your words things would improve.

SomeonesDad2
SomeonesDad2

When "girls of color" stop worshipping and hanging with black thugs, they'll feel safe again.

alt2AJC
alt2AJC

Local Florida newspapers will get around to publishing mugshots of those arrested for looting during the hurricane. Will we likewise be scolded into assuming police bias if the majority of perps turn out to share a racial characteristic?

And will the Southern Poverty Law Center then label the manufacturers of security cameras providing evidence "hate groups?"

meno
meno

@alt2AJC Maybe that will happen the same time conservatives start generalizing about all white people every time papers publish photos of sexual offenders and start calling for rougher treatment of white people on mere suspicions brought about by what others have done. 

Nichelle Young
Nichelle Young

My son got attacked by a white student at his school and the community instantly thought he was the problem. But after the investigation, it came out that the white boy was the problem all along. We pressed charges and I was told that my son "would be fine" and we should just "get over it". The white people refused to believe that this could negatively affect my son. They were more worried about how this was going to affect the white kid. So stop saying that people are trying to cause a divide in this country. No, we are bringing our situations to the news so that hopefully, this stuff stops. Racism in our communities is strong and our kids don't deserve it. My son's own football coaches didn't have his back! Do you have any idea how hurtful that is to a 12 year old? These were men that he trusted. So let me tell you how that affected my son. He stopped trusting white men in authority positions. Even though the school cop did her job in the end, the 1st comments weren't in favor of him being "so innocent" in this. So now, he doesn't trust cops to have his back...... ever. I didn't put those thoughts and feelings inside of him. Other people..... white people did. My husband and I tried to teach him that school was safe and his coaches are people that you can go to with ANY life problem. You see, we had more faith in the white people in our community than they had for my son. That's where the problems lie. We are no longer teaching our children to trust. We are allowing them to form their own opinions. So don't say that we are teaching them to hate or to be disobedient. No, we are teaching them to follow their gut. My son would never be disrespectful but he also would never follow an order, from anyone, that isn't lawful or respectful. And he shouldn't....... period! If you have that big of a problem with what my son is doing/has done, call me or his father. One of us will be at that school in 5 minutes and we'll handle him if he's wrong. But you better believe that I'm coming in hard as hell at the adults if they are wrong. The problem is, the schools never feel like their wrong. They are criminalizing everything that kids do these days. A fight in school should not get a child a felony charge. All of us have either fought or argued in school. Now we want to act is if it's the worst thing in the world for a child to do. We are hypocrites and we are the problem. Not the kids. Kids are being kids.

methuselahschild
methuselahschild

keep pressing charges.. send him to some classes for self protection.. no one should be attacked while in school.. but if they are .. protect yourself... dont be a willing victim.. but also teach that just because he knows how to hurt .. that you will punish and/or not come to his aid if he does.. in other words.. teach him how to get along in this world...