Sign OSV's petition to remove police from schools in the Clackamas, Multnomah, and Washington counties here.
We don't need cops in schools.
School Resource Officers, fully-armed, fully-equipped police officers permanently stationed in our schools, cause more problems than they solve. There are better ways to keep kids, teachers, and school staff safe.
The statistics are clear; SROs increase suspensions, expulsions, arrest, and juvenile court visits, especially for students of color. One study found that students in schools where SROs are stationed are five times more likely to be arrested than students in schools without SROs, and another found that students in schools with SROs are also five times more likely to be charged with disorderly conduct. The standard of evidence goes down as well. According to the same study, students at schools with SROs are significantly more likely to be arrested despite insufficient evidence to sustain the charge. And, these burdens do not fall equally on the entire population. “The more nonwhite students a school has, the more likely it is to have a full-time SRO,” according to Vox. Yet even a wrongful charge decreases a student’s chance of graduation and increases the likelihood of returning to the criminal justice system. A constant police presence in schools sets students – especially students of color – up for failure.
A common argument cited in the defense of SROs is that they reduce violence in schools. But that argument is undercut by the research which shows no difference in safety and no reduction in school shootings resulting from a constant police presence. Not to mention that schools are already safer than virtually any other environment, that the chances of being killed in a school shooting are less than one in a million, and that the Parkland SRO was unable to prevent the shooting at the Stoneman Douglas High School.
Another argument is that SROs make students feel safer. Here, too, the research is clear; SROs make students feel less safe and more fearful, exactly the opposite of the effect intended by SRO advocates. We should also put this argument in its full social and ethical context. A visible police presence often makes white, middle and upper-class students feel safer because police typically do not intimidate and terrorize white, wealthy people. However, if the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and far too many others teach us one thing, it is that people of color have legitimate reasons to fear police violence and intimidation. SROs foster these fears– and the associated racial and economic privilege - in the school environment.
But perhaps the best argument against SROs is simply that there are better ways to keep students and staff safe. The vast majority of an SRO’s work involves non-violent, low-level offenses such petty drug possession. Here, school confiscation, parental intervention, and added institutional support could accomplish the same objectives while keeping these students out of the criminal justice system.
In other cases, trained and properly equipped security staff can be engaged to keep students and staff safe without all the accompanying problems caused by SROs.
Schools should be safe, and students and staff should feel safe in them, but a police presence in our schools does nothing to accomplish this. It is time for a new approach.
Oregon Student Voice (OSV), in collaboration with Stand for Children, the Move Schools Forward Campaign, and the Lakeridge Students Demand Action Club has launched a campaign to remove School Resource Officers (SROs) from 18 Oregon School Districts. The campaign will engage students to petition and lobby school administrators, school boards, and city officials to act immediately on OSV’s policy proposal. Also as part of the campaign, OSV will produce a detailed report and policy proposal on SROs in Oregon Schools for presentation in the next legislative session.
If you are an individual, group, or organization that is also interested in removing SROs from schools, you can sign the petition here, and/or send an email to info@oregonstudentvoice for ways to get involved. You can also look for updates on the OSV Instagram and/or Twitter (ORStudentVoice), or on the website.
Samantha Block is a junior at Lincoln High School and a member at Oregon Student Voice, a student-led organization that empowers all students to be authentic partners in making decisions that affect their K-12 education.