A place for SROs, but discipline needs to be left to teachers

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2015

School resource officers have been in the spotlight recently after an officer in a South Carolina classroom flipped a student out of her chair and threw her across the classroom.

The incident has created a small debate about whether we need officers in classrooms and, if we do, what their role should be.

Whether or not we need police officers in our schools is not an easy debate. We have seen enough tragedies on public school campuses to understand why an officer close by might be reassuring, yet at the same time, the need for an officer on campus acknowledges that schools are becoming increasingly dangerous places for our children.

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But regardless of whether officers should be or should not be on our campuses, it is clear to us they should not be disciplinarians. Teachers and school administrators must continue to be the first responders called to handle day-to-day student behavioral issues.

For instance, the New York Times reported that the officer in South Carolina who assaulted the 16-year-old student did so because the girl was using her cell phone during her Algebra I class.

The teacher had asked her to cease use of the phone, but and when she wouldn’t comply, the officer stepped in and, the Times reports, “forced her from her desk by flipping it before he pulled and threw her toward the front of the room.”

There will likely be lawsuits over the act, and that is a shame. Incidents like this need to be resolved in the principal’s office, not in a courtroom.

If law enforcement officers are to be in classrooms, it is important that they be professional, respectful and courteous. There are lifelong lessons learned in school, and we hope one of the lessons students learn is, law enforcement officers are not scary or unpredictable. Instead, we hope they learn law enforcement officers are there to protect and help them.