From Marianne Burke:
NOVA Equity Agenda Coalition
Re: School Resource Officers Violate Student Rights, Studies Find
To: Fairfax County Public School Board and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
In the Summer of 2018, prompted by a Fairfax County NAACP-led coalition which included several advocacy organizations, teacher’s unions, and parent teacher associations, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) School Board and the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors implemented sweeping measures intended to restrict School Resource Officers (SRO) from getting involved in disciplinary matters that should be handled administratively. Among other goals, the new guidelines were supposed to ensure the following:
a. Draw a distinct line between officers and school administration; and restrict officers from getting involved in non-safety related matters.
b. Mandate crisis intervention training and disability awareness training.
c. Require SROs to read students their rights prior to questioning in relation to a crime, and alert parents prior to students being searched or questioned.
Unfortunately, while initial data from the first half of the 2017-2018 school year indicated arrests were on pace for a close to 60% drop in arrests, follow-on data provided by Fairfax County Juvenile & Domestic Relations District Court demonstrated the new guidelines are not being implemented consistently or effectively. According to data uncovered by the Northern Virginia Equity Agenda Coalition, within the four-month period of January 2018 to June 2018 alone SRO’s processed 174 juvenile cases. 88 were for Possession of Marijuana; 75 for Assault; 27 for larceny; 35 for Trespassing; and 26 for Disorderly Conduct among others. The full 2018-2019 year showed a decrease in the number of arrests and charges, but unfortunately no change in the types of charges being filed. Between August 2018 and June 2019, SROs processed 321 juvenile cases (278 individuals). 116 were for Possession of Marijuana; 36 for Assault; 10 for larceny; 6 for Trespassing; and 13 for Disorderly Conduct. In-keeping with previous trends, over half of the students charged are African American or Latinx.
The fact that these practices continue despite the new regulations demonstrates the inability for FCPS to exercise proper oversight over the SRO program, and to hold Fairfax County Police Department or its administrators accountable for following the Memorandum of Understanding between the school system and the police department.
We all want orderly and safe classrooms, but no one should want or expect our law enforcement to become entangled in disciplinary issues that should otherwise be handled administratively. While schools’ primary role is to serve as an institution for learning, it must also remain a suitable place for young people to mature and sometimes err, without being subjected to the unquestionably perilous path of the criminal justice system. SRO programs nationwide have rocketed the “school to prison pipeline” into hyperdrive, and Black and Latino children are paying dearly. In 43 states and the District of Columbia, black students are arrested at school at disproportionately high levels, according to an analysis of federal data by the Education Week Research Center. In Virginia, black students make up 39 percent of the students enrolled in public schools with at least one arrest, but they also comprise 75 percent of school-based arrests. Even more alarming is that the overwhelming majority of these arrests are for relatively common and minor transgressions like fights, arguments or theft. An analysis of the 2013-14 civil rights data by the Education Department found that 1.6 million students attended schools that had police officers but no school counselors. The data also revealed that students in these schools were more likely to be Hispanic or Black than students in schools with counselors. This must end and Fairfax County should lead the way in Virginia.
After taking all these factors and data into consideration, the NOVA Equity Agenda Coalition strongly urges FCPS to remove SROs from its schools and rely exclusively on administrative security officials that report directly to FCPS. We also call on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors to redirect the funding that is currently earmarked for the SRO program to go to hiring counsellors. We believe these changes would pave the way for more effective solutions to school security, and most importantly, healthier solutions for black and brown youth.
NOVA Equity Agenda Coalition
Anonymous List for Change
Boys to Men
Casa BruMar Foundation
First Baptist Church of Fienna
Fairfax County Federation of Teachers
Indivisible Virginia 11
Interfaith Action for Human Rights
Ladies in Focus
National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NADASEC)
NOVA National Pan Hellenic Council
Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., Omicron Kappa Kappa Chapter
Prince William NAACP
Rise for Youth
Service Employees International Union (SeuI)
Signma Gamma Rho Sorority, Iota Epsilon Sigma Chapter
South County Task Force
Southwest Virginia Poor People’s Campaign
The Activated People
VA Justice Dems
Virginia Coalition Against Solitary Confinement.