Policing

Educators, advocates and students say ‘No’ to SROs in and out of House Finance hearing

“We know that SROs can serve many functions in schools, including enforcement and discipline,” said Clausius-Parks from RI Kids Count. “We also know that student arrests and juvenile detention increases a student’s likelihood of future arrests, decrease their likelihood of completing high school and may result in long lasting consequences including restricted eligibility for federal grants, student loans and barriers to college enrollment and future employment.”
Photo for Educators, advocates and students say ‘No’ to SROs in and out of House Finance hearing

Published on June 16, 2022
By Steve Ahlquist

On Tuesday, as the State Senate debated and passed a series of gun control measures in response to recent high-profile mass shootings, the House Finance Committee debated the merits of paying for a proposed program that would place two School Resource Officers (SROs) in every Rhode Island school. The bill, H8310, from Representative Nathan Biah (Democrat, District 3, Providence), “would require school districts and municipalities to have in place two school resource officers within the confines of every public school on or after July 1, 2022.”

Representative Biah, a Providence high school principal in his day job, presented the bill as being about school safety, particularly in the wake of several high profile school shootings such as the one in Uvalde. Though Representative Biah referenced the need for social workers and mental health counselors in schools, his bill was about police.

Noting some of the issues with SROs, Representative Bias said, “Sometimes we, as administrators… put school resource officers in a difficult situation in schools. School resource officers are not disciplinary in schools. They are not supposed to discipline any kid in school. Not at all… if they’re going to be in the building, they build relationships with kids. That’s the role of a school resource officer, not to get in there and start arresting kids.”

There are seeming contradictions in Representative Biah’s bill. On the one hand, the bill mandates centralized training for all SROs, a program that will take time to build and accredit. On the other hand, the bill mandates two SROs in every school after July 1, 2022, a mere two weeks from now.

“Is this the best solution? I don’t know,” admitted Representative Biah, receiving an exasperated reaction from those in the room. “But one thing I can tell you is that it’s a step in the right direction. Because right now we have nothing to protect our students. Nothing at all.”

Two hours before the hearing began, two dozen students gathered outside the offices of the Providence Student Union as part of a march to the State House in opposition to Representative Blah’s bill. Emma, a student at Classical High School, emceed the event and led the march.

“Counselors Not Cops is a program that has been going on since before I was in high school, since before I was in the Student Union,” said Emma. “It will probably be going on after I graduate.”

Emma outlined the Providence Student Union demands:

  1. Remove all School Resource Officers from Providence schools;
  2. Prevent armed officers and other law enforcement officers from being stationed in schools; and,
  3. use funding currently allocated for SROs to support the hiring of new health and safety staff.

The march to the State House:

Emma:

High School student Nico:

Twenty people, including educators, legal experts, advocates and students, spoke out against the bill. Nobody testified in favor. There was also written testimony, from dozens of people, opposed to the legislation.

Paige Clausius-Parks from RI Kids Count shared national data showing that the presence of law enforcement officers in schools:

  • worsen school climates;
  • increases disciplinary action; and
  • disproportionately impacts the academic incomes of students of color.

“We know that SROs can serve many functions in schools, including enforcement and discipline,” said Clausius-Parks from RI Kids Count. “We also know that student arrests and juvenile detention increases a student’s likelihood of future arrests, decrease their likelihood of completing high school and may result in long lasting consequences including restricted eligibility for federal grants, student loans and barriers to college enrollment and future employment.”

Here is the rest of the testimony:

Written testimony:

06-14-2022–H8310–Aarav Sundaresh
06-14-2022–H8310–ACLU
06-14-2022–H8310–Adria Marchetti
06-14-2022–H8310–Alex Denisevich
06-14-2022–H8310–Alix Swann
06-14-2022–H8310–Allison Palombo
06-14-2022–H8310–Anahi Valdez
06-14-2022–H8310–Andrea Mazie
06-14-2022–H8310–Andrew Poyant
06-14-2022–H8310–Ariane Famiglietti
06-14-2022–H8310–Ashley Mantanico
06-14-2022–H8310–Astrid Flynn
06-14-2022–H8310–Bhintuna Maharjan
06-14-2022–H8310–Brittany Kraft
06-14-2022–H8310–Brittany Northrup
06-14-2022–H8310–Caroline David
06-14-2022–H8310–Carolyn Sheehan
06-14-2022–H8310–Chanda Womack
06-14-2022–H8310–Chanravy Proeung
06-14-2022–H8310–Christina Lee
06-14-2022–H8310–Christopher Samih-Rotondo
06-14-2022–H8310–Dalton Maldanado
06-14-2022–H8310–David Montenegro
06-14-2022–H8310–Demi Egunjobi
06-14-2022–H8310–Dexter Vincent
06-14-2022–H8310–Elana Haus
06-14-2022–H8310–Ellen Zahniser
06-14-2022–H8310–Emily Spikell Sullivan
06-14-2022–H8310–Emily Ustach
06-14-2022–H8310–Eric Gottlieb
06-14-2022–H8310–Erickson Comas
06-14-2022–H8310–Erin Papa
06-14-2022–H8310–Gabe Mernoff
06-14-2022–H8310–Gabrielle Oulette
06-14-2022–H8310–Gislaine Ngounou
06-14-2022–H8310–Greta Scheing
06-14-2022–H8310–Jaz Barros
06-14-2022–H8310–Jennifer Lima
06-14-2022–H8310–Jeremy Lum
06-14-2022–H8310–Jeremy Sencer
06-14-2022–H8310–Jess Haetteman
06-14-2022–H8310–Jessica Tabak
06-14-2022–H8310–Jonathan Cohen
06-14-2022–H8310–Joseph Acevedo
06-14-2022–H8310–Juliette Sabater
06-14-2022–H8310–Justin Roias
06-14-2022–H8310–Keidry Moni
06-14-2022–H8310–Keith Catone
06-14-2022–H8310–Keith Oliveira
06-14-2022–H8310–Kelly Clifton
06-14-2022–H8310–Kids Count
06-14-2022–H8310–Kristen Haines
06-14-2022–H8310–Kristi Martel
06-14-2022–H8310–Lauren Zilm
06-14-2022–H8310–Lily Thornton
06-14-2022–H8310–Lindsay Paiva
06-14-2022–H8310–Live United
06-14-2022–H8310–Lukas Stern
06-14-2022–H8310–Mary Hennessey
06-14-2022–H8310–Matt Kilcline
06-14-2022–H8310–Melissa Hughes
06-14-2022–H8310–Michelle Alas
06-14-2022–H8310–Nancy Xiong
06-14-2022–H8310–Naomi Blank
06-14-2022–H8310–Nate Halda
06-14-2022–H8310–Neha Basu
06-14-2022–H8310–Nicole Martins
06-14-2022–H8310–Paige Clausius-Parks
06-14-2022–H8310–Peter Chung
06-14-2022–H8310–PLEE
06-14-2022–H8310–Rachel Bishop
06-14-2022–H8310–Ricky Strickler
06-14-2022–H8310–RIWFP
06-14-2022–H8310–Robin Hwang
06-14-2022–H8310–Selene Means
06-14-2022–H8310–Seth Rockman
06-14-2022–H8310–Stephanie Meuse
06-14-2022–H8310–Susan Rohwer
06-14-2022–H8310–Tanya Creamer
06-14-2022–H8310–Tara Nummedal
06-14-2022–H8310–Timothy Ryan
06-14-2022–H8310–Whitney Catanio
06-14-2022–H8310–Yuna Shprecher

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