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Virginia schools mull fate of School Resource Officers

Posted at 11:45 PM, Jun 24, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-25 00:08:46-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- As unrest over police brutality grows across the country, a debate is growing over the use of School resource officers (SROs) and if they should be removed from schools.

School resource officers are police officers that are responsible for safety and crime prevention inside schools. Typically, one officer is assigned to a school.
On Tuesday night, Henrico County leaders and law enforcement discussed the county's current SRO program.

Currently, 35 officers serve in Henrico County Schools. Throughout the 2019-2020 school year, 8 arrests were made, while 15 arrests took place during the 2019-2019 school year.

Board of Supervisors member Tyrone Nelson said that he supports SROs in schools, but that he worries about increasing charges on students of color.

"I will sit here and say I support SRO`s being in our schools and if we can utilize those educational pieces to a better benefit," Nelson said. "'I don't want them in schools if it's going to be increasing charges particularly on Black and brown kids, and then it puts them into prison from school pipeline."

The school to prison pipeline is a national trend where harsh school policies funnel disadvantaged children out of the schools and into the juvenile and criminal justice system. Many students impacted struggle with learning disabilities, poverty, abuse and neglect.

Marc Schindler is with the Justice Policy Institute in Washington D.C. studied juvenile criminal justice and said that youth of color are more likely to be negatively affected by SROs.

"We've done research on this. Looked at data... what we know is that youth of color are more likely to suspended, expelled, or arrested and sent to the justice system when you have the presence of a school resource officer and that's with no positive impact on public safety," Schindler said.

Mo Canady is a retired SRO and now trains officers through his organization in Alabama. He believes they're needed now more than ever to help improve community and police relations, but that they have to be carefully selected.

"It has to be someone that truly cares about working with kids regardless of race, ethnicity, cultural background, religious background, whatever it is. It's got a be a person that sincerely cares about working with youth," Canady said.

Schindler argues that keeping SROs is expensive - but Canady believes the payoff can be worth it.

"What the research says is that the best way to keep schools safe is to invest in quality staff. Social workers, counselors, and teachers. Provide them with good training," Schindler said.

Meanwhile, Canady said that "good SROs are our greatest recruiting tool in law enforcement let's face it, we need more good cops."

Meanwhile, Richmond school board leaders have also discussed their SRO program.

They will conduct a 90-day review with the help of students, teachers and the public before making final recommendations.