School Resource Officers, ‘Zero Tolerance’ and the Enforcement of Compliance in the American Education System
Schools are an important part of any community, and are increasingly considered responsible for the social education of young people as much as their academic instruction. In doing so, many schools have adopted a ‘zero tolerance’ response to student conduct that involves harsh penalties for minor infractions. At the heart of this zero tolerance approach is the use of School Resource Officers (SROs) as a means of enforcing student discipline. Involvement of these sworn police officers in the day-today behaviour management processes of a school has serious implications for students that are targeted by these measures. Students at schools with a SRO presence are five times more likely to be arrested for disorderly conduct, with over 10,000 prosecutions of young people under the so-called ‘disturbing schools’ laws every academic year. SROs and their use as a behavioural deterrent can be seen to influence a juvenile’s likelihood of recidivism and heavily impacts upon their involvement in the school-to-prison pipeline. Direct causal connections exist between the criminalisation of misbehaviour in school and adult incarceration; in this sense, the presence of SROs in American schools must be re-evaluated in order to determine whether they constitute an acceptable application of social control.
KeywordsSchool Resource Officers Police Behaviour management Discipline Zero tolerance
Compliance with Ethical Standards
Conflict of interest
Both co-authors, Paul Bleakley and Cindy Bleakley, declare that they have no conflict of interest in relation to the researching and publication of this article.
All research observations and other procedures involved in this study that involved human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments. Informed consent was obtained from all participants included in this study.
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