Original illustration by ©Nadia Fisher, ‘I Don’t Want to Be Next’. Used with permission.

By Simon Boon-Blankinship, age 11 and IndyKids Staff

The number of police officers hired by schools across the country has skyrocketed in recent times. These officers, also known as social resource officers (SROs), are often not trained to work with children, and evidence shows that heightened police presence in schools has led to the criminalization of students of color. 

SROs are not equipped or trained to address mental health issues, so they are unable to effectively deescalate conflict in schools. As recently reported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), some teachers will request the help of SROs when schools run out of support staff to control the behavior of students. The ACLU reported that 14 million students in the United States are in schools with police on staff, but no counselors, nurses or social workers.

According to NPR, extensive data shows that schools with police often assign children with non-serious violent behaviors to law enforcement. The same article claimed that an officer in Florida put handcuffs on a 6-year-old girl while she was crying. Another officer in New Mexico was shown shoving an 11-year-old girl against a wall. Both students were Black. NPR also reported that children of color are unfairly hyper-criminalized and disproportionately targeted by police and excessively punished just because of the color of their skin, even if they are just trying to live a normal youthful life.  

Many schools around the country have recognized this harmful pattern and begun to think differently. NPR reports that school systems in large cities, such as Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Denver, Portland and two districts in the San Francisco Bay Area, have all proceeded in recent weeks to cut off all ties with police. The ACLU reported that 90% of schools do not meet the minimum recommended ratio of students to counselors or mental health therapists. Having more of these types of workers in schools would have an enormous positive effect on the emotional lives of students.