- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not votedIntroducedNovember 30th, 2018
What is House Bill H.R. 7209?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 7209
In-Depth: Rep. Paul Mitchell (R-MI) introduced this bill to assist law enforcement agencies in hiring additional SROs by directing funds for cost-share grants to pay SROs’ salaries and benefits:
“Throughout meetings I have held on school safety with school administrators and teachers, one thing I consistently heard was that school resource officers (SROs) – sworn law enforcement officers – are an important component in maintaining a calm and safe learning environment. Having a SRO in a school not only provides a safer atmosphere, but these officers often become an integral part of the school community, serving as a positive influence and a reminder of what we expect of our children. I would know: my oldest son, now a police detective, previously served as a school resource officer for two years in his community. My bipartisan bill, the School Resource Officer Act, will enable more communities to partner with their local police forces to hire additional SROs through the Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program.”
Some critics of SROs contend that they too often intervene in school disciplinary situations that don’t actually call for a response from law enforcement. There are also concerns that SROs create an unsafe and disproportionately unfair environment for students of color in particular.
Dewey Cornell, a psychology professor at the University of Virginia who studies school safety, argues that SROs are “emotionally reassuring and politically appealing,” but impractical:
“Putting police officers in schools is emotionally reassuring and politically appealing but not practical. Schools are one of the safest places in our country. If you put police officers in schools as guards, they will have little to do and they will not be in the high crime areas of our community where they are needed the most.”
Marc Schindler, head of the Justice Policy Institute, argues that SROs are a largely failed policy:
"In fact, the data really shows otherwise — that this is largely a failed approach in devoting a significant amount of resources but not getting the outcome in school safety that we are all looking for."
The Brookings Institution’s Kenneth Alonzo Anderson conducted a survey of SRO effectiveness in North Carolina, and found that students’ experiences with SROs were mixed:
“Males, students who have strong connectedness with schools, and students who had positive attitudes towards SROs reported feeling safer in schools. However, females, African-American students, and students who have experienced various forms of school violence, such as fights, arguments, bullying, or religious teasing, reported feeling less safe in schools, even though SROs were present.”
Ultimately, Alonzo Anderson concluded that “limited” use of SROs probably makes schools safer, but the use of SROs needs to balanced against the need to keep schools safe for students of all ages and races:
“A minimalist approach to SRO use, such as having the officers focus on preventing mass acts of violence, and other negotiated duties, while limiting day-to-day interactions with students, might reduce juvenile arrests. Minimizing school resource involvement is especially critical in a middle-grades context because young adolescents are experiencing rapid biological, social, moral, and emotional changes. A concern with increased SRO use is that poor decisionmaking, on the part of young adolescents, could be criminalized, when, in fact, other types of developmental support is needed. My findings indicate that policies to increase school safety must address the complexity of school safety, including factors outside of schooling contexts, and should extend beyond popular single-item solutions, such as increased policing or increased mental health support.”
Student activism around police-free schools has been active in 2018, with a December 5, 2018 march in Washington, D.C. in which students and supporters marched to call for removing police officers from schools.
This bill has the support of eight cosponsors, including six Republicans and two Democrats.
Of Note: SROs — law enforcement personnel responsible for safety and crime prevention in schools — have been in place for over six decades. In the wake of high-profile school shootings, SROs are receiving renewed attention as integral components of school safety strategies. In March 2018, the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) estimated that they were 14,000-20,000 SROs in about 30 percent of U.S. schools.
The COPS program has operated through DOJ discretionary appropriations since authorization lapsed in FY2010. The average COPS appropriation each fiscal year during the last decade was approximately $300 million.
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Steve Debenport)