(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The Arlington branch of the NAACP says School Resource Officers should be removed by Arlington Public Schools.
SROs are sworn Arlington County Police officers who are stationed in schools. In addition to providing added security, an SRO “mentors, educators and coaches” for students, the police department says.
In a statement, however, Arlington NAACP President Julius Spain, Sr. said that police should not be in schools when arrest statistics show Black and Latino kids being disproportionately charged with crimes.
We made this decision after nearly a year of data-driven research led by our Education Committee with input from our Criminal Justice and Political Action Committees. The data shows stark disparities in the percentage of Black and Latino juveniles arrested and sentenced to detention relative to their population in the county. In addition, there was extensive collaboration and discussion with families and key leaders in the community, including law enforcement officials, elected leaders, and social advocacy groups. Moreover, this decision brings the branch into closer alignment with priorities at the national level of the NAACP. The Executive Committee agreed that it is time for APS to consider alternative approaches. For example, SRO’s could be replaced with more counselors, mental health professionals, social workers and nurses and relationships with trusted adults can be fostered by staff within each school.
The latest ACPD annual report describes the SRO program as having a positive impact on students.
School Resource Officers (SROs) are certified by the Department of Criminal Justice Services through a specialized training course and complete additional training on early childhood development, active shooter response, crisis intervention, CPR and TEC-C emergency medical care. SROs engage with students in the classroom throughout the year to teach lessons about interacting with police and the legal system, as well as relevant crime prevention information. They also work collaboratively with substance abuse counselors to educate both students and parents on the effects and recognition of substance abuse.
In addition to their presence in the schools as educators and to ensure the safety of staff and students, the SROs are engaged in extracurricular activities and sports at many schools — serving as coaches, reading mentors and club advisors. In 2019, Detective McGuire led the Hamm Middle School Girl’s Soccer Team to an undefeated season and Detective Blow was named Everybody Wins DC’s Mentor of the Year for Arlington Public Schools.
ACPD spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the department “is preparing for the upcoming school year and will be meeting with Dr. Durán, the new Superintendent.”
Spain told ARLnow that the branch deliberated about SROs “for nearly a year,” and the Executive Committee vote last night to recommend removal was not unanimous.
“We don’t take it lightly,” he said.
The branch anticipates sending formal recommendations to Arlington Public Schools “in the coming weeks.”