School Resource Officers and The Missing Data
By: Mark Edson
Throughout the State of Colorado and our Nation, there is a trickling movement to remove School Resource Officers from their schools. These officers work as coaches, mentors, informal counselors, educators and law enforcement officers.
Data from the ACLU shows that 31% of school related arrests nationwide are black students. Our black students are also three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. Once suspended or expelled, these students are less likely to complete high school and more than twice as likely to be arrested.
Time and time again, you can find studies or articles that link the School Resource Officers’ involvement in the “school to prison pipeline”. They very often contain flowery wording such as “Statistics show”, or “Advocates are calling for..”, or “conflicting studies”.
Instead of quoting data from a study, I would like to focus on my own experiences that have guided me to this point. There is one thing that I know after working twenty seven years as a police officer, and the last seven as a School Resource Officer. I dislike the daily field activity report or DFAR. Some departments have gotten away from it, and some still use it, and now I understand why. It is key to funding, raises, new police cars and equipment and training. Because departmental leaders are able to take that data and explain what the officer has been doing. It shows the number of citations or arrests, how many traffic contacts they are making and it is easy data to extrapolate when asking for another FTE.
In 1999 I was a Littleton Police Officer who was indirectly involved in the response at Columbine High School. In 2012, after Sandyhook I wanted to become a School Resource Officer, so that I could do my part to prevent anything like that from happening again. I was appointed as an SRO and embarked on the greatest job I have ever had in law enforcement. Each day I was excited to come into work, see my students and staff, and protect my sheep from the wolves. Little did I know how much of an impact I would have, not only on individual students, but on the building I worked in. Day after day I would meet with students, talk to them about their day, or what was bothering them. I would go to their house when they did not want to come to school or when they left home. I would prevent students from fighting because I knew their conflicts. I would help parents that were in need, by delivering Christmas presents. I would save a student’s life by being there for them, and stopped a school shooting because I answered my phone after-hours. This is OUR missing data that I know each and every SRO does daily. Our Schools ARE safer because we are there. We protect ALL students, no matter what! We protect them from harm, and we protect them from the criminal justice system.
We however, have failed to collect that data, and right-now we need to start! We need to collect our positive student interactions. We need to show that we are keeping students out of trouble, both legally and disciplinary. We need the data that shows, our allowed discretion is being used appropriately and equitably. We need to be able to show where the referrals to law enforcement are coming from, and how we are dealing with that referral.
Start doing this today, before a conversation about pulling your much needed job comes to you!
Please Use Links below to access data collection forms
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The above are examples created using Google forms, a simple way to collect data on a easily modified form.