The HOOTS (Helping Out Our Teens in Schools) program stands in solidarity with our youth, educators, and community members who are calling for our schools to prioritize the mental health needs and well-being of all students by de-funding the school resource officer (SRO) position and reallocating those funds towards support services for students. We stand with our community as it resoundingly demands that public schools be safe for all students and that school districts demonstrate a commitment to providing ample non-punitive support.
As a team of mental health and medical professionals, we see students on a daily basis who are survivors of a maladapted safety net that only exacerbates issues of poverty and oppression. Hoots believes in utilizing mediation, restorative justice and self-reflection–tools that we know to be more effective in the development of our students than criminalization and punishment. Our team encourages school administrators to work proactively to identify alternative ways in which student needs and challenges can be addressed, and we happily offer our assistance in whatever way we can. We believe that working to support students, rather than punishing them, is ultimately the path that will lead to safer schools.
We hear students of color speaking out about law enforcement presence in their schools, and the negative impact this has on their safety and ability to thrive. We need to listen and believe these voices, and allow them to lead the way toward racial justice in our school system. Despite the ubiquitous presence of SROs nationwide, very little evidence exists that supports their effectiveness at deterring acts of violence. On the contrary, in many instances, SROs have been found to perpetuate and escalate violence in schools.
Hoots pledges its support to the movement to reallocate all funding from the SRO program. We believe that students’ actions are a reflection of the care afforded to them by the community, and as such, well-compensated teachers, counselors, and support staff are what will truly make a difference in keeping students safe and healthy. We ask that all schools demonstrate their dedication to listening to the voices of students of color and their families, and the empirical evidence available showing the harm SROs can cause. We are thankful to be a part of a community that can have these challenging discussions.