Today there are an estimated 30,000 officers now in schools, up from roughly 100 in the 1970s. Although the stated purpose of these officers is to maintain a sense of safety, a very troubling consequence is greater arrest rates and referrals for minor disruptive behaviors — with especially harsh results for girls of color.
According to 2013-2014 data from the U.S. Department of Education, Black girls are 2.6 times as likely to be referred to law enforcement on school grounds as white girls, and black girls are almost 4 times as likely to get arrested at school. Disparities affecting Latinas are especially severe in elementary school where they are 2.7 times more likely to be arrested than young white girls. In light of this data, schools and districts must work to improve interactions between girls of color and school resource officers (SROs), striving to keep girls of color safe and supported in schools and reduce disproportionate rates of contact in the justice system.
We discussed a new toolkit, Be Her Resource: A Toolkit about School Resource Officers and Girls of Color, which offers strategies and much needed guidance to improve relations between SROs and girls of color at schools. The toolkit, developed by National Black Women’s Justice Institute and Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, is centered on first-of-their-kind focus groups and interviews with SROs and girls to learn first-hand perspectives about their interactions.
Our speakers included:
Monique W. Morris, Ed.D., Co-Founder and President, National Black Women’s Justice Institute
Rebecca Epstein, Executive Director, Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality
Marianna Islam, Director of Programs & Advocacy, Schott Foundation for Public Education (moderator)