September 11, 2017 2:28 pm
School-based police officers, known as school resource officers (SROs), have become a common and growing presence in schools across the nation.The presence of law enforcement in school, while intended to increase school safety, has also been associated with increased surveillance and criminalization of students — especially students of color. Little data exists, however, on the experiences of girls of color.To fill this gap, the Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the National Black Women’s Justice Institute engaged in research to examine the relationship between girls of color and SROs.
This toolkit presents the findings that emerged from focus groups and interviews that we conducted with SROs and girls of color in the South, a region that is relatively unexamined in such research. They paint a complex portrait of interactions and relationships with unprecedented depth.
KEY FINDINGS INCLUDE:
- SROs described their most important function as ensuring safety and responding to criminal behavior, yet they report that educators routinely ask them to respond to disciplinary matters.
- SROs do not receive regular training or other supports specific to interactions with girls of color.
- SROs attempt to modify the behavior and appearance of girls of color to conform with mainstream cultural norms, urging them to act more “ladylike.”
- Girls of color primarily define the role of SROs as maintaining school safety. They define their sense of safety as being built on communication and positive, respectful relationships with SROs.
- African-American girls, in particular, identify racial bias as a factor in SROs’ decision-making process. African-American girls perceive that their racial identity negatively affects how SROs respond to them on campus.Based on these findings, this toolkit presents guiding principles and policy recommendations designed to improve interactions between girls of color and SROs, with the ultimate goal of reducing these girls’ disproportionate rates of contact with the juvenile justice system.