GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. -- Some parents with a grassroots group in Guilford County are asking the school board to reconsider how they use school resource officers in the district, particularly in middle schools.
Lissa Harris with Parents Supporting Parents believes there should be a distinction between using SROs for security and using them for discipline.
“The schools-to-prison pipeline is real,” she explained. “Court counselors are telling us when we go meet with them that there’s a disconnect because they are getting these frivolous charges and when they investigate them it’s not the volume it should be.”
For example, she said, young students who are arrested and charged when they get into fights. She believes school resources should be funneled to more counselors and social workers versus law enforcement.
“It’s not to say anything against the SRO program, but it’s to say -- is it the best source of resources right now for our students? Or do we need to realign it with those social workers, with those counselors, and give students the resources they need.”
School Board Vice Chairman Amos Quick said he does believe it’s time for the community to have these discussions.
“Is having law enforcement handling regular and routine disciplinary matters really the course we want to go?” he said, describing one of the several topics that came up in a weekend meeting with PSP and the NAACP.
“Some of my best friends are police officers and they don’t relish the role they’re playing [in schools] right now. Some of them feel like they’re being called into typical school matters and that they don’t think calling law enforcement in is the answer to certain things,” he added.
Quick said the NAACP is also concerned with a disparity that more students of color are being disciplined or given juvenile records than other populations.
One of Harris's suggestions is to keep SROs at the high school level but remove them from middle schools.
Quick said it’s not a new consideration from a financial standpoint. “Can we afford to still employ school resource officers on our middle school campuses? It’s something that has come up in budget discussions year after year as our budgets are limited and money gets tighter.”
Harris believes security methods can still be in place without employing SROs.