The 12 police officers stationed in city schools will not be there anymore. City council defunded the program in an amendment to the 2020-21 budget approved Tuesday. The officers, known as School Resource Officers (SROs), have been a fixture in the district since 1998.
The Children’s Agenda’s Eamonn Scanlon has been a vocal advocate for the move, as he says police in schools help over-criminalize black and brown students in America.
“There’s nothing a police officer can do that a social worker, or a counselor can’t do, other than arrest a child. That’s why we need to move away from them,” said Scanlon. “Just removing police from the context of schools will have a positive influence on the students of Rochester.”
Scanlon said he’s now turning his attention to removing officers from suburban school districts, including Greece, Gates-Chili, and Wheatland-Chili. He said other districts like Rush-Henrietta have removed them for financial reasons and he’s hoping the changes spread.
“It’s an example,” said Scanlon. “The fact that Rochester moved first, it’s something that the county can now do now as whole. Every district that has SROs in the state should eliminate them in the state. We shouldn’t stop here. This is just a great day for Rochester to lead on this issue.”
A statement from Iman Abid from the Genesee Valley Chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union agrees with Scanlon’s conclusion. She says that training for educators to meet students’ social and emotional needs without police is what’s needed.
“Students need support and services, not police officers surveilling them and standing ready to arrest or punish them for the slightest infraction,” said Abid. “We don’t expose students in white suburban schools to this kind of police presence, and we can’t accept this in our city schools.”