School-to-Prison Pipeline: The Role of School Resource Officers (SRO)

School-to-Prison Pipeline: The Role of School Resource Officers (SRO)

Sheri Jenkins Keenan, Jeffrey P. Rush
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-6315-4.ch006
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Juvenile crime rates have declined steadily since 1994 and the number of youths in juvenile detention centers has dropped; however, school discipline polices are moving in the other direction. In recent years, the lines between the public school system and the juvenile justice system have become indistinct. There are several trends in K-12 education contributing to the school-to-prison pipeline such as declining school funding, resegregation of schools by race and class, under-representation of students of color in advanced placement, over-representation of student of color in special education, the creation and expansion of “zero-tolerance” policies, tracking, increased presence of SROs, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), standardized testing, and rising drop-out rates. However, the focus here is the expansion and increased reliance on “zero-tolerance” policies and the use of the SRO to enforce those policies which play an immediate and integral role in feeding the school-to-prison pipeline.
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The School Resource Officer (Sro)

School resource officers (SROs) are sworn law enforcement officers who are deployed by a police department/sheriff’s department in a community-oriented policing assignment to work in collaboration with one or more schools (Coon & Travis, 2012). SROs are responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools.

NASRO (2021) recommends that law enforcement agencies utilize a rigorous selection process when selecting officers for SRO assignments and that officers received at least 40 hours of specialized training, beyond basic law enforcement training/academy, in school policing before being assigned.

According to NASRO (2021), the goals of a well-founded SRO program include:

  • providing safe learning environment,

  • providing valuable resources to school staff members,

  • fostering positive relationships with youth, and

  • developing strategies to resolve problems affecting youth and protecting all students.

Finally, NASRO considers it a best practice to use what they call a “triad concept” (2021) to define the three main roles of school resource officers: educator (i.e., guest lecturer), informal counselor/mentor, and law enforcement officer.

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