On Monday, October 26, 2015, School Resource Officer (SRO) Ben Fields at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina responded to a teenage girl refusing to leave the classroom by violently flipping her over in her chair, slamming her to the ground, and dragging her out of the classroom, as her fellow students watched in horror and taped the assault.
SROs are sworn law enforcement officers working within public schools. The first SRO to be assigned full-time to a school was in 1953 in Flint, Michigan. During the 1960s, localities across the country developed programs integrating police officers into the school setting.
In recent years, SROs have gained negative attention for their role as part of the school-to-prison pipeline, an overarching term for how youth are more likely to interact with the criminal justice system in the educational setting, increasing their likelihood of incarceration. In 2011, Justice Policy Institute released the report “Education Under Arrest” making the case to remove SROs. In addition to police presence at schools increasing escalation of disruptions, the normalization of metal detectors, pat-downs, and the threat of law enforcement involvement prepare students for maltreatment by police as adults. SROs are deployed differently in schools across the county, and police, like the rest of the population, exhibit racial bias. Students who have not experienced chronic overpolicing expect law enforcement to protect them in adulthood. Other students know a different reality of physical violence at the hands of police.