The Education Dept. (D0Ed) and the Justice Dept. (DOJ) release new guidance to help make sure that K-12 school resource officers (SROs) are not misused as classroom disciplinarians fueling the school-to-prison pipeline.
“In some schools today SROs have become the disciplinarians,” said Education Secy. John King. “Instead of better equipping educators to address misbehavior and to help students learn and grow from their mistakes some schools are simply turning misbehaving students over to SROs.”
This can lead to citations or arrest and set students on a path to dropping out of school or even to prison, King said.
The new guidance will help state and local education and law enforcement agencies responsibly incorporate SROs in the learning environment. Additionally, the departments have highlighted tools available for law enforcement agencies that also apply to campus law enforcement agencies.
To assist states, schools, and their law enforcement partners in assessing the proper role of SROs and campus law enforcement professionals, both the Education Department and the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services released letters to states and districts emphasizing the importance of well-designed SRO programs.
To assist K-12 educators, the departments also jointly released the Safe, School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics. These new resources can help education and law enforcement agencies that use SROs to review and, if necessary, revise SRO-related policies. These must be aligned with common-sense action steps that can lead to improved school safety and better outcomes for students while safeguarding their civil rights, King said.
The COPS Office, Office of Community Policing Services has provided a funding for the nationwide hiring of more than 7,000 SROs since 1995.
This year, the funding requirements will be different, DOJ said. It will use the DoEd rubrics as the guiding principles and requirements for the SROs hired under this program. In 2013 DOJ started requiring the presence of a Memorandum Of Understanding between the school district and the police department so that the roles of the police officer gets highlighted clearly.
In 2016 DOJ goes farther. Not only will an MOU be required for agencies receiving funding, but we are also going to mandate training for SROs to ensure they understand the MOU, they understand the issues of implicit bias in policing, they understand the role that the SRO should and must play in schools, DOJ said.
As the grants are used to hire the officers, grantees must guarantee that they have an MOU as the rubric outlines. Grantees are expected to work with the DOJ and identify best practices and make sure that they’re supporting in a very positive ways the schools and a positive learning environment, DOJ said. The rubric and MOU will not be used in the competitive scoring process, but to receive the funding, grantees must comply with the mandates, DOJ said.
The Charles Hamilton Houston Institute estimated the number of SROs at approximately 17,000 in the country. SROs are funded in a variety of ways through school districts and local police departments and local sheriff’s departments as well.
The release builds on the Obama Administration’s work with states and districts to improve discipline practices and climate in the nation’s schools, King said.
- Joint Federal Policy and Legal Guidance: Education and Justice jointly released a School Climate and Discipline Guidance Package in 2014 to provide schools with a roadmap to reduce the usage of exclusionary discipline practices and clarify schools’ civil rights obligation to not discriminate.
- #RethinkDiscipline Convening and Public Awareness Campaign: DoEd and DOJ launched Rethink Discipline at the White House in July of 2015, convening school district teams, including some law enforcement practitioners and justice officials from across the country and sparking a national dialogue around punitive school discipline.
- Support for State and Local Educational Leaders: In 2015, DOJ launched the National Resource Center for School Justice Partnerships to advance school discipline reform efforts and serve as a resource hub.
- Fostering Safe and Supportive Learning Environments: This year, DoEd released the ED School Climate Surveys and the Quick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements to help foster and sustain safe and more nurturing environments that are conducive to learning for all students.
- Addressing Implicit Bias and Discipline Disparities in Early Childhood Settings: In 2016, the DoEd and HHS rolled out a $1 million Pyramid Equity Project to establish national models for addressing issues of implicit bias, and uneven implementation of discipline.
The new resources and letters released today build on the work of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative and the Council on Women and Girls.
Info: http://goo.gl/PV6A3T (website).