Berkeley High School Grapples with Role of SROs in School Safety

School board debates the duties provided by the campus SRO and if more officers are necessary.

Berkeley High School Grapples with Role of SROs in School Safety

Berkeley, California — There’s a fine line that exists between providing the proper protection of students and staff and schools and applying unnecessary police force. Recently, it’s been a topic of debate of the Berkeley High School board. Last month the school board discussed several options for improved school safety and if the current environment warrants additional police.

Currently, the school relies on a single School Resource Officer (SRO) to not only protect and serve the school, but function as a teacher, counselor and mentor to students, reports Berkeleyside.  And, although the SRO is uniformed and armed, his focus at Berkeley has been on relationship building, only making arrests or writing up students when absolutely necessary.

A committee comprising students, administrators, parents and other community members wonder if this is enough and suggested at the board meeting an expansion of the SRO’s role to beyond four days a week at Berkeley High and Berkeley Technology Academy or adding a second SRO to provide enhanced student mentorship.

Surprised by this recommendation, the school board asked the committee to investigate police-free alternatives to school safety.

Advocates of keeping and expanding an SRO presence expressed the positive impact of an SRO on a school’s classroom culture and the difference it can make when students have an existing relationship with an officer. When the committee surveyed students and staff, no teacher and fewer than 6% of students found the SRO to be “hostile or mistrustful of kids.”

Some of the school board members, however, were unconvinced that school safety requires a police officer stationed on campus. According to the Berkeleyside article, School Board Director Ka’Dijah Brown said that the committee failed to explore alternative “pathways for creating police-free schools.”

The discussion, which reflected a distinct division of opinion, remains open and part of the school board’s plan to “reimagine” the role of the SRO.

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