School Resource Officers debate continues in DC

The debate over school resource officers continues in D.C.

D.C. Council originally approved a plan back in 2021 to gradually phase them out by July 1, 2025. However, policymakers are now changing their tune and taking action to stop the removal of SROs.

The ACLU of DC is calling on city council to keep their promise of removing police officers from the District’s public schools.

The nonprofit organization’s policy director Damon King says when police are put in schools, they are often put in a position to respond to situations not involving criminal behavior.

"When that happens, it can lead to young people having contact with the juvenile justice system and criminal system in situations where it’s just not appropriate and that can have really long-term damaging effects on young people," King explained. 

According to a tweet by the ACLU of DC, 100% of school-based arrests involve students of color in our nation’s capital. Back in 2019, 92.3% of those arrested were Black and 7.7% were Latino.

"It’s disappointing," King said.


Bowser reaffirms stance on SROs in DC schools

Earlier this year, D.C. Council voted to phase school resource officers out of schools during the budget process.

The D.C. Council Committee on Judiciary and Public Safety believes they have clear evidence SROs are needed in schools, citing serious concerns about violent disruptions. For example, data reveals for the 2021-2022 school year: 77 knives, 15 tasers, and 5 guns were discovered on campuses. There were also a number of fights, assaults, and robberies. 

More specific reasoning can be reviewed in the committee's Hearings and Testimony report starting on page 112. 

"We should be creating an environment where students can find peace, but instead we are bringing some of the same problems that we see out in society when we talk about police-community relations, and we are bringing them into schools and that can’t possibly be a good thing for young people," King said. 

FOX 5 did reach out to D.C. Public Schools. DCPS referred us to the D.C. Deputy Mayor for Education, Paul Kihn, who provided this statement:

"Protecting the safety of our students while in school, in transit, and in their community is our highest priority as a city. We know the overwhelming majority of school leaders want School Resource Officers (SROs) brought back to their campuses, both during the school day and around arrival and dismissal time. We believe restoring the option of SROs for schools that want them is a helpful step to enhance and support student safety. We urge council to support returning SROs to school campuses."

D.C. Council will have their first vote on the FY 2024 Budget on Tuesday, May 16 where this controversial issue is expected to be discussed.