In an effort to improve the climate at schools and universities and combat the unnecessary and excessive punishment of students, the U.S. Education Department is offering guidelines on how education institutions incorporate law enforcement officers into school discipline decisions.
U.S. Education Secretary John King says that the tools provided in the Safe, School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics will help prevent schools from ceding the responsibility for student discipline to school resource officers (SROs), local law enforcement officers who are assigned to schools.
"School resource officers can be valuable assets in creating a positive school environment and keeping kids safe," King says. 'But we must ensure that school discipline is being handled by trained educators, not by law enforcement officers."
The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) says it supports the education department's guidelines.
In a letter to elementary and secondary school officials, King says that when law enforcement officers handle disciplinary issues instead of educators, school behavior problems may escalate into arrests and involvement in the criminal justice system.
"I am concerned about the potential for violations of students’ civil rights and unnecessary citations or arrests of students in schools, all of which can lead to the unnecessary and harmful introduction of children and young adults into a school-to-prison pipeline," King says.
"The focus should be on prevention and positive interventions—not reflexively removing students from regular academic instruction or unnecessarily escalating situations by calling SROs into classrooms to enforce discipline."
- Create sustainable partnerships and formalize [memorandums of understanding] among school districts, local law enforcement agencies, juvenile justice entities, and civil rights and community stakeholders.
- Ensure that [memorandums of understanding] meet constitutional and statutory civil rights requirements.
- Recruit and hire effective SROs and school personnel.
- Keep SROs and school personnel well trained.
- Continually evaluate SROs and school personnel, and recognize good performance.
King says that instead of learning too heavily on SROs to handle discipline, school staff and administrators should be well trained to address behavioral issues through corrective, non-punitive interventions.
"It is incumbent upon us to abolish the use of unnecessary school discipline practices that could deny students the opportunity to mature into capable, healthy, and responsible adults," King says.
After the education department announced its initiative, NASRO expressed its strong support.
"Like Education Secretary King, we believe that administering formal school discipline belongs solely in the hands of educators, and that educators should be well trained to address behavioral issues through a variety of interventions that do not involve law enforcement officers," the organization says in a news release.
"NASRO not only supports the requirement of specialized education for SROs, our organization provides such training around the nation and internationally."