The death of George Floyd at the hands of the police increased the scrutiny of school resource officers, and so far some schools in the United States have begun cutting ties to the police or dissolving their police forces.
CNN spoke to students across the country about school resource officers, or SROs, and the changes they want to see in their schools.
Salem Hailu, 17, who will soon be a senior at Byers High School in Denver, Colorado, says school resource officers treat students of color differently and more punitively than others.
Most of the time they call the police at their school is for incidents or reports involving students of color and mostly black students, she says.
“It makes me feel like they don’t want me in my own school. It makes me feel like students of color are not valued,” Salem said.
While SROs are encouraged to have positive interactions with students and assigned the task of building relationships with them, Salem believes that schools should put more resources elsewhere.
“They (students) should have relationships with social workers and people who could really help their future and their mental health,” Salem said.
Have seen SROs using excessive force
Jasmin Benas, 18, was in the parking lot of Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, when she saw an SRO group hold black students on the ground and arrest them.
“Our immediate reaction was like taking out their phones and recording. So something can make these ORSs responsible,” Benas said.
“I can understand discipline in terms of having a meeting with the director if something happened, but this was not discipline. It was excessive force and it was not appropriate,” he added.
‘We should have advisers and less police’
Amir Lumumba, 12, An eighth-grader at Montgomery County Schools in Maryland says he has seen some SROs that quickly bring students to the principal’s office, leading to unnecessary suspensions.
“I feel like if they had a way to express themselves or tell a person what happened, or if they had a safe place for a person to know what they feel or why they acted that way, I feel that that would be better than being brought to the office to be suspended for three or four days, “Amir said.
“We should have counselors and fewer police officers at school or no police,” he added. “The police are there for emergencies, not to walk around the schools with weapons.”
They are afraid to go to school
Autumn Vultao, 17, who will soon be a senior in the Denver Public Schools, is not confident that SROs will intervene in mental health incidents at school.
When she was a sophomore, the SROs were called in to monitor her and “light me up with gas and use my previous hospitalizations as fuel to make them angry even though I wasn’t doing anything wrong,” Autumn said.
Finally, a school counselor stepped in and spoke to her, but Autumn says it may have escalated further if she had responded to them.
“I’m still scared to go to my school and talk to someone about anything related to mental health because I’m afraid it will happen again or even worse this time,” said Autumn. “At the same time, it has also made me more open because it can happen to other people.”
“We have to reimagine the idea of school safety”
Reagan Razon, 16, a student at Enloe Magnet High School in Raleigh, North Carolina, says many of her classmates have criticized the role of SRO, but others, especially white students, still support her presence.
“They feel that school resource officers are there to protect them from drama or different dangers. But on the other hand, there are black students who are really traumatized by the experiences with these officers,” Reagan told CNN. “White comfort is not worth the trauma of your black students.”
“We need to reimagine the idea of security because for many, it is not really protecting them or making them feel safe,” Reagan said.