Wyoming Liberty Group
The Wyoming School Safety and Security Task Force was initiated in early 2013 and published its recommendations on October 24, 2013. The team was “…asked to evaluate the current state of safety and security across Wyoming school districts; identify weaknesses, strengths and best practices; and to propose recommendations for improvements”. Three subcommittees were formed to
1) Increase the number of School Resource Officers in Wyoming Schools;
2) Update/modify schools with controlled access systems; and
3) Develop a comprehensive crisis management training program for district staff.
First of all let’s just state outright: school violence is genuinely terrifying for all concerned. The issue at hand is whether draconian measures as directed by the Department of Homeland Security are relevant, necessary or even beneficial for Wyoming.
We began by consideration of the findings and recommendations of Wyoming Governor Mead’s School Safety and Security Task Force established in 2013 and heavily sponsored by the Wyoming Department of Homeland Security.
In our recent blog on Keeping Kids Out of Jail we mentioned that revisiting the policies that led to placing school resource officers in Wyoming schools would significantly reduce Wyoming’s second-in-the-nation juvenile arrest and incarceration rates. In this blog we will explore some of those policies. While policy direction appears to support expansion of the SRO program in Wyoming it appears that state funding for implementation of the recommendations has not been secured. This means that there may be enough time to prevent implementation of these proposed programs before our prevalent problems expand to include the nightmarish scenarios documented in our blog The Troubling Trend of Elementary School Arrests.
Police officers stationed at schools are generally known as School Resource Officers (SROs). According to the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO), the formalized organization of SROs began in 1991 although alternative sources predate the existence of SROs by several decades.
For months we have been investigating problems associated with troubled youth in the state of Wyoming. Recently we published a series of reports on How to Keep Kids Out of Jail. Within this series is a piece focusing on the presence of School Resource Officers increasingly in schools.
According to juvenile justice advocates such as the ACLU, the School to Prison Pipeline prioritizes incarceration over education due to several factors including failing public schools, zero tolerance policies, increased reliance on police for school discipline, “alternative schools” for disciplinary problem students, court involvement and juvenile detention. Each of these has inherent dangers for children already most at-risk for failure.
When juveniles get into trouble in school, at home or out in their communities, all too frequently these at-risk youth end up embroiled in the judicial system. Although schools and child advocates attempt to identify at-risk youth and intervene early, some of the recent trends in juvenile justice have been counterproductive.