Pat-downs and tickets for truancy “make us feel unsafe and unwelcome in our own schools,” said Tanisha Dennard, a member of the Youth Justice Coalition in the Los Angeles area, during the conference call. As a student in LA, she said, she couldn’t afford bus fare and was not given the chance to explain her tardiness when she had to walk to school. Because her mother couldn’t pay the hefty fines issued at school by police, she ended up in the juvenile justice system.
Yet advocates of school-based police, often known as school resource officers (SROs), say that if they are properly trained, they are a valuable part of any school’s safety strategy, and expanding their role around the country can only help.
A resource officer isn’t just an “armed guard” at a door, but someone who builds relationships with students, helps resolve conflicts, and serves as a deterrent to crime and violence, says Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) in Hoover, Ala.
While gun attacks on a school are rare, he points to the example of an SRO in California who ended such an attack by shooting and disabling a student who fired a shotgun through a school window.