The study found that African-American students and students with disabilities were more likely to be arrested at school.
“When there are officers walking the halls, student behaviors that in the old days would get normal school disciple, end up’’ resulting in arrest, Segal said. “What happens as a result, officers who are supposedly there to protect students end up harming them by causing them to get arrested, and by reducing their chances for success at school.”
The report is also critical of the high cost of having police officers in schools, particularly when the money comes out of school department budgets.
“Monies that can be going to teachers go to officers instead,” Segal said. “We have kids, we’re thinking about [safety] in the wake of what happened in Newtown, just like everybody else is. We just think that the school resource officer idea is a particularly problematic one in light of what’s already happened with school resource officers in Massachusetts.”
In Marshfield, where police have had a presence in the schools since 1994, school resource officer Bob Quigley said he has built a rapport with hundreds of students, a few of whom have gone on to become his colleagues at the police department. In the 19 years he’s been assigned to the schools, he said, he has made only two student arrests. Most of the enforcement actions involve citations for parking violations or possession of marijuana, he said.
The bulk of his work, he added, is actually educating students on issues like Internet safety and bullying, and being a liaison between the school and police departments. Having a school resource officer in every school would be “a great wish list.”
“Right now there is no funding for school resource officers,” Quigley said. “The ones in school now, the Police Department is paying for that officer to be there, and that’s one less officer on the streets. If we have a windfall of money that is out there, sure, we’d love one in every school. Is it reality? My opinion, no.”
State Representative James M. Cantwell, a Marshfield Democrat and former Norfolk County assistant district attorney, filed legislation this month to create a program that would allow cash-strapped communities to apply for a state grant to fund school resource officer positions.
“In my experience, it’s far better to have that contact between the schools and having a school resource officer,” said Cantwell, who is a friend of Stratton and supports the idea. “The resource officers have a major role to play there. They’re the eyes and ears so kids are comfortable getting to know an officer. If there’s bullying going on, the officers can be helpful, as well as for prevention of drug issues.”
Stratton said resource officers at schools should be funded out of police department budgets, and estimated that the average property tax bill would increase by $75 to $100 per year, per household.
“For the cost of one extra teacher in schools, you’re preventing a host of different problems,” he said. “Believe me, I have naysayers, people saying, ‘How are we going to afford this?’ It’s going to be a test of wills. Who’s willing to step up and vote ‘Yes,’ and who’s willing to step up and vote ‘No.’ ”