Obama Administration Releases Resources for Schools, Colleges to Ensure Appropriate Use of School Resource Officers and Campus Police
The U.S. Departments of Justice and Education released today new tools to improve school climates, ensure safety, and support student achievement in our nation's schools.
To the extent a local decision is made to use school resource officers (SROs) in community schools, these resources will help state and local education and law enforcement agencies responsibly incorporate SROs in the learning environment. Additionally, the departments have highlighted tools available for law enforcement agencies that also apply to campus law enforcement agencies.
“With the release of these vital resources, the Obama Administration is furthering its commitment to ensuring that schools and SROs follow best practices, ensuring a positive and supportive classroom environment,” said Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. “By fostering relationships of trust and respect between students and school resource officers, we can continue to build safer schools where our young people can learn and thrive – a vital effort that the Department of Justice will continue to advance with our partners at the federal, state, and local levels in the months to come.”
“As educators, we are all bound by a sacred trust to protect the well-being, safety, and extraordinary potential of the children, youth and the young adults within the communities we serve,” said U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. “School resource officers can be valuable assets in creating a positive school environment and keeping kids safe. But we must ensure that school discipline is being handled by trained educators, not by law enforcement officers. At the college level, the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing has important recommendations that can help campus and local law enforcement both keep students safe and safeguard students' civil rights.”
To assist states, schools and their law enforcement partners in assessing the proper role of SROs and campus law enforcement professionals, both the Justice Department's Office of Community Oriented Policing Services and the Education Department released letters to states and districts emphasizing the importance of well-designed SRO programs and calling on leaders of institutions of higher education to commit to implementing recommendations from the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing in the campus policing context.
To assist in the K-12 context, the departments also jointly released the Safe, School-based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) Rubrics. These new resources can help education and law enforcement agencies that use SROs to review and, if necessary, revise SRO-related policies in alignment with common-sense action steps that can lead to improved school safety and better outcomes for students while safeguarding their civil rights.
The release of these materials builds on the Obama Administration's work with states and districts to improve discipline practices and climate in the nation's schools. The departments have worked collaboratively to recognize states and districts leading the way on these issues as well as to provide states and districts with effective alternatives to exclusionary discipline practices and continue to call upon a broad array of stakeholders to rethink approaches to school discipline in order to keep kids in school and out of the justice system. Highlights from the Administration's supportive school discipline efforts include:
Joint Federal Policy and Legal Guidance: Education and Justice jointly released a School Climate and Discipline Guidance Package in 2014 to provide schools with a roadmap to reduce the usage of exclusionary discipline practices and clarify schools' civil rights obligation to not discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin in the administration of school discipline.
#RethinkDiscipline Convening and Public Awareness Campaign: Education and Justice launched Rethink Discipline at the White House in July of 2015, convening school district teams, including some law enforcement practitioners and justice officials from across the country and sparking a national dialogue around punitive school discipline policies and practices that exclude students from classroom instruction and targeted supports.
Rethink School Discipline: Resource Guide for Superintendent Action: As a part of Rethink Discipline, the Department of Education developed a resource guide with a set of potential action items to help school leaders implement safe, supportive school climate and discipline by engaging stakeholders, assessing the results and history of existing school climate and discipline systems and practices; implementing reform; and monitoring progress.
Support for State and Local Educational Leaders and Partners from Other Systems: In 2015, the Department of Justice launched the National Resource Center for School Justice Partnerships to advance school discipline reform efforts and serve as a dynamic resource hub for schools, law enforcement agencies, and others to support school discipline reform efforts at the local level.
Fostering Safe and Supportive Learning Environments: In 2016, the Department of Education released the ED School Climate Surveys and the Quick Guide on Making School Climate Improvements to help foster and sustain safe and more nurturing environments that are conducive to learning for all students.
Addressing Implicit Bias and Discipline Disparities in Early Childhood Settings: In 2016, the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services recently announced a new investment of $1 million in the Pyramid Equity Projectto establish national models for addressing issues of implicit bias, and uneven implementation of discipline, including expulsions and suspensions, in early learning programs.
Providing Guidance to Schools on Ensuring Equity and Providing Behavioral Supports to Students with Disabilities: In 2016, the Department of Education announced the release of a significant guidance document in the form of a Dear Colleague Letter, which emphasized the requirement that schools provide positive behavioral supports to students with disabilities who need them. It also clarified that the repeated use of disciplinary actions may suggest that many children with disabilities may not be receiving appropriate behavioral interventions and supports. Also included was a Summary for Stakeholders.
The new resources and letters released today build on the work of the My Brother's Keeper Initiative and the Council on Women and Girls, and respond to recommendations put forth by the President's Task Force on 21st Century Policing to support schools in developing more positive school climates and strengthening the relationship between law enforcement and the communities they serve. These efforts help districts, schools, and communities build credible and sustainable systems, structures, and partnerships that provide safe, supportive learning environments that uplift students and nurture them when they do well and when they need support to do better.