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Removing Police from Schools
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Campus Safety Alliance --  Morgan Ballis, M.S. EM Campus Safety Alliance -- Morgan Ballis, M.S. EM
San Diego , CA
Monday, June 15, 2020

 

In the wake of the killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, there have been calls to defund law enforcement agencies across the United States.  As a result, some voices are calling for the removal of School Resource Officers (SROs) and other law enforcement officers from schools across the country.  Proponents of the change argue police officers in school increase fear and anxiety among students of color.  They further claim these officers pose a greater risk to the safety of students, specifically students of color, than the risk of a school shooting.

Is there data that supports these claims?  One study being touted as evidence of the impact police presence has on the attitudes of black students examined the effects of Operation Impact in New York.  Oddly enough, the researchers found, "The findings for school-related attitudes show no evidence that Operation Impact influenced school-related attitudes".  Another study explored the disciplinary actions and attendance in schools that received grant funding to hire SROs.  The study found an increase in suspension rates and a decrease in student attendance rates at these sites, however, the research suggests the possibility of a correlation between these variables, not causation.

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) issued a press-release on June 5th addressing the current calls to remove police from schools.  They start by highlighting the training they offer teaching SROs about implicit bias, how to recognize it in themselves, and how to overcome it.  They go on to provide their own evidence of the positive impact police have had in school safety including a decrease in juvenile arrests as well as incidents of averted school violence due to the actions of law enforcement.

Where does this bring us today?  Districts and individual schools need to make evidence-based decisions reflecting the concerns of parents and the local community.  Districts should identify how SROs can fill gaps in school safety while simultaneously supporting restorative justice programs.  Data used to support their decision, whether in favor or against keeping officers in schools, should be local and site-specific.  

Students, especially at the high school level, should be involved in the conversation as well, however, we must view their opinions through the lenses of ethical research.  Per scientific standards, adolescents are the epitome of a vulnerable population as they are highly susceptible to researcher bias and external influencers.  This is not to discount the voices of our students but rather to align evidence-based practices in school safety to the same standards of academic research.

SROs have played a critical role in preventing targeted attacks at schools and stopping active killer events over the past 20 years.  However, there is always a need to improve training regarding implicit bias so we can leverage these officers to build relationships in our communities. 

Morgan Ballis is the Director of Strategic Planing & Training at Campus Safety Alliance.  He is a nationally certified law enforcement trainer focusing on K-12 school safety and active shooter response.

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Morgan Ballis, M.S. EM
Title: Director of Strategic Planning & Training
Group: Campus Safety Alliance
Direct Phone: 833-722-6787
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