Soon after George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, the city’s public school district voted to push the police out of its schools.
The movement inspired many other districts across the country to make a similar decision, or at least consider it. School officials in Milwaukee, Portland, Oregon, and Denver, have all announced they are cutting off ties with police.
Last week, Superintendent Tony Thurmond said that California’s Department of Education is pushing for a reevaluation of police on school campuses, especially as it relates to racial justice.
A few hours later, the school board in Oakland, California, voted unanimously to disband the school district’s police department as part of what they called the George Floyd Resolution.
School resource officers or SROs have been a common fixture in US public schools since the 1950s. SROs are meant to keep campuses safe and mentor students as well. However, activists say the police have been criminalizing Latino and Black students.
George Floyd’s death erupted calls to abolish and defund police departments and is renewing the movement against school policing.
SRO programs were initially a means to build relationships between police and young people in some cities, but the practice spread widely and with a greater emphasis on security after the 1999 Columbine shooting.
These officers have the same capabilities, training, and resources as other members of the sheriffs and police department. The difference is that their roles are more complex. They settle disputes, monitor bus traffic, and simply provide security, all while serving as mentors, counselors, and sometimes teachers.
However, according to an ACLU report published in 2017, some SROs have been accused of using excessive force toward students and contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline.
The National Center for Education Statistics estimates there were at least 52,100 officers working in US public schools in 2016 that includes part-time and full-time officers.
The Department of Justice has granted millions of dollars to fund SROs for decades through different initiatives, but there are no national standard training requirements for police officers deployed in schools.
According to a report by Strategies for Youth, a non-profit aiming to improve interactions between police and young people, only 24 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws addressing SRO training and those statues are not uniform.