The past 30 years have seen a drive to install school resource officers—essentially, police officers—in public schools. But too little forethought or consideration has been given to how people trained in law enforcement would acclimate to institutions designed to socialize and educate children, said Lisa Thurau, an advocate for improving interactions between police and youth.
As many of these officers have arrived with little knowledge of school protocols or laws protecting youth with special needs, she said, students of color have disproportionately felt the consequences.
Thurau, the founder and executive director of Strategies for Youth, a nonprofit organization that works to reduce contentious encounters between police and youth, shared these findings during a panel discussion hosted by Northeastern University’s Institute on Race and Justice.
Panelists in the virtual discussion homed in on the impacts of school policing, and how inadequate planning and clarity around these programs has led to lawsuits, high rates of student arrests—often for minor offenses that would not have been previously considered criminal—and escalating friction between schools and law enforcement, parents and police, and communities and schools.