Del. Mike Griffith: Defunding School Resource Officer programs would be a mistake | COMMENTARY
By Mike Griffith
Feb 26, 2021 at 6:39 PM
One of a series of weekly commentaries from Harford County state legislators regarding the 2021 Maryland General Assembly session.
Only three years ago, the Maryland General Assembly overwhelmingly voted to fund School Resource Officer programs in our schools statewide, in part for safety for our students. In just three short years, some advocates want to undo that good work while providing no alternative security solution for our children.
The advocates who support defunding our SROs use two main points to support the effort. First, they state that most of the arrests in schools are for disruptions or disrespect, and these arrests are therefore unwarranted. The Maryland Public Schools arrest data does not support this. The data states only 7.5% of arrests are for disruption and only 0.8% are for disrespect. While undoubtedly our goal must be zero arrests in school, the data does not support their argument of a high number of these arrests.
Second, they state that SROs negatively impact students with disabilities. As a parent of a student with disabilities, I strongly disagree. SROs are actually better equipped to interact with students with disabilities because they develop relationships with them that a non-SRO officer would not have.
Some of our communities have a distrust of law enforcement. We need to acknowledge that. It is imperative that we work to solve that. The way to bridge the gap is not less contacts with law enforcement, but more positive contacts.
Positive, consistent contacts between law enforcement and students build trust within the community. While their primary mission is to protect the students and staff inside the school building, SROs develop relationships with the students and are trained to handle situations putting the interest and future of the students first. For example, SROs in Harford County develop excellent relationships with the students, teachers and staff, and work countless hours on duty and off duty mentoring troubled students, running criminal justice clubs and reviewing social media in an attempt to prevent bullying.
Additionally, if there is an altercation at school, the SRO familiar with the students involved is better trained to handle the issue in a way that ensures the best short-term and long-term result for all involved. A patrol officer responding to a call for an assault would be more likely to file criminal charges than an SRO who is part of the student’s life. These SROs work very hard to preemptively avert potential safety issues at school. They do this because they care about the safety and security of their school community.
To defund and remove SROs from our schools will only move us backward in the effort to build trusting relationships between law enforcement and our communities. With the opportunities in front of us, and no alternative proposal for the safety of our children, it is in the best interest of Maryland’s communities to keep the SROs in school, to build the relationship with law enforcement, and to provide the best and safest future for all of our students.