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Rethinking Law Enforcement Officers in Schools

Professor Jason P. Nance · October 2016
84 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. Arguendo 151

A recent event that occurred in a South Carolina classroom illustrates why there should be concern about assigning law enforcement officers to work in public schools. In October of 2015, a teacher called a law enforcement officer into a classroom to handle a student behavior problem. A female student was using a cell phone in violation of school rules.  Other students in the classroom captured what happened next by video. The videos show that when the student refused to exit the classroom, the officer grabbed her by the neck, flipped her and her desk to the floor, and then forcibly dragged her across the classroom to restrain and arrest her.

This event was not an isolated incident of a law enforcement officer, sometimes referred to as a school resource officer (“SRO”), mishandling a student discipline problem. Indeed, evidence of law enforcement officers mishandling student disciplinary problems abound. These incidents alone should give us pause. However, this Essay presents below a simple cost-benefit analysis of SRO programs that I hope will be used by policymakers, school officials, parents, and members of our community to evaluate whether law enforcement officers belong in schools at all.

Read the Full Essay Here.