The nation’s largest organization of school-based police officers agrees with new federal guidance that recommends law enforcement officers not be involved in school disciplinary action. The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) released its response to school discipline guidance issued this week by the U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Justice.
“For nearly a quarter of a century, NASRO has trained school resource officers not to be involved in school discipline,” said NASRO executive director Mo Canady. “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.”
NASRO strongly recommends that at least one school administrator attend NASRO’s basic school resource officer training alongside the law enforcement officer. “There’s tremendous value in such side-by-side training,” Canady said. “We’d love to see it become a requirement.”
Canady said inadequate training of school-based police officers is particularly prevalent in some of the nation’s large, metropolitan jurisdictions. In the past few years, only a few large metropolitan police departments have sought training from NASRO, which has been educating school-based police officers for 24 years. “NASRO is well equipped to help agencies and school districts of all sizes, rural as well as urban,” Canady said.
For example, Canady said NASRO trains officers to build relationships with school staff and students that enable the officers to de-escalate situations. “Officers without our training, on the other hand, will sometimes unnecessarily escalate issues to the point of criminal charges,” 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. These documents should clearly define the roles and responsibilities of both police officers and school administrators.
According to a joint US Department of Justice and UD Department of Education policy statement, the departments
“strongly support schools in their efforts to create and maintain safe and orderly education environments. Many schools have adopted comprehensive, appropriate, and effective programs demonstrated to: (1) reduce disruption and misconduct; (2) support and reinforce positive behavior and character development; and (3) help students succeed. Successful programs may incorporate a wide range of strategies to reduce misbehavior and maintain a safe learning environment, including conflict resolution, restorative practices, counseling, and structured systems of positive interventions. The Departments recognize that schools may use disciplinary measures as part of a program to promote safe and orderly educational environments.”
Federal law prohibits public school districts from discriminating in the administration of student discipline based on certain personal characteristics, one of which is race or ethnic origin.
The Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC),conducted by OCR, has demonstrated that students of certain racial or ethnic groupstend to be disciplined more than their peers. For example, African-American students without disabilities are more than three times as likely as their white peers without disabilities to be expelled or suspended. Although African-American students represent 15% of students in the CRDC, they make up 35% of students suspended once, 44% of those suspended more than once, and 36% of students expelled.
Further, over 50% of students who were involved in school-related arrests or referred to law enforcement are Hispanic or African-American. The Departments recognize that disparities in student discipline rates in a school or district may be caused by a range of factors.
Statistical evidence may indicate that groups of students have been subjected to different treatment or that a school policy or practice may have an adverse discriminatory impact. The CRDC data also show that an increasing number of students are losing important instructional time due to exclusionary discipline.
The increasing use of disciplinary sanctions such as in-school and out-of-school suspensions, expulsions, or referrals to law enforcement authorities creates the potential for significant, negative educational and long-term outcomes.
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NASRO is a not-for-profit organization for school-based law enforcement officers, school administrators and school security/safety professionals working as partners to protect students, school faculty and staff, and the schools they attend. NASRO is located in Hoover, Ala., and was established in 1991. For more information, visit www.nasro.org.