Image: Shaun King
By We’Ced Youth Media
Ed. Note: In the wake of a video showing Columbia, South Carolina’s Officer Ben Fields apparently slamming and dragging a young black student at Spring Valley High School, the role of police officers in our schools has become the focus of nation-wide debate. Though Fields was fired, many are blaming the student for supposedly inciting the attack by not complying with teachers and administrators before Fields was called to the classroom, including Fields’ superior Sheriff Leon Lott who said the student “is responsible for initiating this action.”
We’Ced Youth Media took the incident as an opportunity to look at the issue locally. According to our city website, at the high school level Merced School Resource Officers (SRO’s) are meant to “maintain order on each of the campuses” and “identify ‘at risk’ juveniles and work with them to try to change their behavior.” Here, We’Ced reporters reflect on their experiences with SRO’s in the past and what they feel the role of SRO’s should be in our local schools.
Nisa Salazar, 17
My experience with my School Resource Officer haven’t been positive. Both my sister and I go to the same high school and when the SRO noticed our last name, he asked my sister about my father. Once my sister confirmed that my father was the Salazar the SRO knew, the officer replied by calling my father an “ass” to my sister. That was very hurtful and negative. When I found out, I was livid. My sister said she didn’t say anything back to him because he’s a cop and he has a badge.
I believe SRO do have a role to play at schools. They should be protecting the school by not letting ‘bad guys’ on campus. They should be at school with a respectful attitude. They should be friendly, they’re dealing with kids!
David Macias, 17
My experiences with cops at school have not been pleasant. Actually, I haven’t had good experiences with cops in or out of school. I’ve seen them harass youth and abuse their power. In my opinion, cops in school should only be there for protection. They shouldn’t be there to discipline students, that’s the job of a teacher or principal.
Stephanie Mancilla, 16
Everyday when I get to school I feel like SRO’s just watch me from a distance. That makes me feel like I’m an animal, I feel like I’m being seen a certain way because of my gender and ethnicity.
I don’t think cops have a place at schools. What will one cop do if someone or a group of people are shooting up the school? If they absolutely need to be on campus, they should be a highly trained, select group, not just any random cop.
Victor Seguin, 17
I haven’t really had a bad run in with an officer at school. In fact, the officer at Yosemite High School is actually pretty chill.
The role officers should have at school is to protect kids from threats, things like school shooters, bombs and serious fights. They are not there to intimidate or enforce discipline on students unless there is truly and seriously no other viable option.
Cheyenne Chaddock, 17
My personal experiences with SRO’s have been pretty boring. I’ve barely spoken to them and they’ve barely spoken to me. However, I do realize that I’m white and that makes a difference.
I personally feel like SRO’s have no place in our schools. For too many, police are people to fear and avoid.
Gabriel Vazquez, 18
I remember the day I came to school in a striped red shirt. I had an interaction with my school police officer where he tried to accuse me of being a gang member for my shirt. That was hurtful because even though that is around me here in Merced, I try to steer myself away from that environment. The cop said that gang members ruin society and I was heading down that path. I just agreed with everything he was saying so he would not say anything else. I do my best to avoid him now.
I believe the only reason cops have to be at school is to provide a safe environment for students and staff, that is it.
Allie Lannerd, 14
I don’t talk to the cops of my school. When I pass by him, he just looks at me from behind his sunglasses. When I think about it, the only role I can see cops needing to play at schools is keeping the place safe, not being in the classrooms or helping teachers discipline students. Cops everywhere should respect people but especially those in schools. They should respect us as people and not treat us like first graders. Our SRO’s should be there to help us and build us up by showing us a positive example of police officers, not tearing us down by making us feel bad about ourselves.
Natalie Wight, 18
I’ve never had an experience with the SRO at my school. I’ll occasionally see him walking through the halls, but I’ve literally never had an interaction with him. I don’t think cops are necessary at schools. I’ve never needed the officer during my entire time in high school and when I do hear about other people having experiences with them, they’re usually negative.
Alex Salas, 18
My experience with my SRO hasn’t been good. I was involved in a fight on campus my freshman year and ever since then it feels like the school officer has had it in for me. He seems to love to stare me down and there’s even been times he’s had his hand on his holster when looking at me. I’m not sure what that means but it makes me feel like he doesn’t want me there. I don’t believe SRO’s belong on school. They should be available on call but I don’t see how they are needed on a daily basis.
Jesus Dominguez, 17
My experience with my school officer was limited to a forensic exercise in class. He came in and explained to the whole class what a crime scene is and how it works. He even stayed to help us complete our assignments.
I think SRO’s have a role. They should be there on campus to protect the people at school and secure our safety. They should do this with discipline. They are not there to do the teachers’ job, that’s not what they’re paid for.
Cassandra Avitia, 17
My experiences with SRO’s have never been negative. The officers I’ve had any kind of communication with seem to have been nice. Still, I think SRO’s have only one role at schools–to protect everyone in that school who may be truly threatened with some kind of danger. They should act in a protective manner in any situation and other than that, they shouldn’t be too involved with the students.
Cassidy Trindade, 17
When I was attending high school in Turlock, there was an officer who I believe is still at that school who was very forceful with students. I remember one student who was riding his skateboard on the sidewalk just as school had let out. The officer grabbed the boy and very sternly told him to stop skating and sit down. The boy didn’t comply so the officer kicked his legs out from underneath him and forcefully made him sit on the curb and handcuffed him. Everyone just watched in shock.
I think if the cities and schools are going to require SRO’s on campus then they should be trained to behave in a more respectful way than if they were out on the street. We’re not criminals, we’re students. They should put themselves in our shoes for a minute and then behave the way they would want to be treated.