How to Advocate for School Resource Officer Removal

There is a less carceral path to safer schools: Divesting from SROs and investing in school nurses, social workers, psychologists, and counselors. Even though youth crime is on the decline — and has been, since the mid-nineties — and graduation rates are up, the myth that our children are criminal and violent persists. The increase in arrests is the result of SROs in schools who have a penchant for criminalizing youth behavior. The arrest rates for schools with SROs were 3.5 times the rate of those without SROs, and in some states the arrest rates are as much as eight times the rate of schools without.

This is a guide on how to advocate for the removal of SRO's in schools and increase the safety of the children in Washington communities.

 

PRESENT/TESTIFY AT A SCHOOL BOARD MEETING


Preparation

  • Observe a board meeting to learn how the meeting is structured.
  • Research your board – try an internet search for information and media related to each board member so you know your audience.
  • It’s not typical for the Board to ask or answer questions during an Open Forum. Be prepared to give your remarks without comment from the Board.
  • Research district goals and/or board goals so you can connect them with your remarks.
  • Research the district policy on SRO’s and look for an equity policy (sometimes called an equity lens).
  • Provide a one-page fact sheet that highlights the main data or arguments to each board member.
  • While facts and statistics are helpful, it can be equally persuasive if you are able to share a story that shows these numbers have a human face.  
  • Find out what the process is for speaking during Open Forum – this can usually be found out by calling the main district office or looking on the Board’s website.
  • Find out how long you will have to speak – it can be anywhere from 1-3 minutes. Prepare your remarks to fit within this timeframe – there is nothing worse than getting cut off in the middle.
  • Practice your remarks out loud multiple times with a timer to ensure that you stay within your timeline.
  • Write down your remarks to ensure a polished presentation (see writing tips below).
  •  Be confident, this is your school district and you have every right to be heard.
 

Writing Tips for Your Remarks

  • Introduce yourself and your school affiliation (they will need this info for the minutes).
  • Open with your key point – i.e. “I am here today to ask you to end the policy of having SRO’s in our schools” or “I’ve come to talk to you about removing SRO’s from our schools.”
  • Prepare your remarks to fit within the time frame allotted for speakers.
  • Write the way you imagine yourself speaking.
  • Use powerful and clear language.
  • If possible, connect your reasons for making this change to board and district goals as well as their equity policy.
  • End your remarks by clearly stating the action you want the school board take – i.e. “I want to conclude by urging the board to change their policy and remove SRO’s from our schools.”
  • Thank the Board when done.


DO YOUR RESEARCH

  • Find out if there is already an established group (a parent/community group or a school/district committee) working on this issue in your district - this way you can work together on this issue and present a unified front rather than separate movements.
  • Find names and contact information for your school board members and superintendent. This information is usually located on your school district’s website.
  • Learn about the board – try an internet search on each board member to find articles or other information about them to help you understand where board members have previously stood on issues. It may also be helpful to determine which board members may be up for re-election and when.
  • Check school board agendas (these are typically posted ahead of time) to see if the issue of SROs is coming up.
  • Find out where SROs are located in your district (interactive map here).
  • Research Board Policy(s) on SROs or law enforcement in schools.
  • Unless the district has its own police force, (this is rare) then they have a contract, most often called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), with the law enforcement agency/agencies providing the SROs. (insert information about SRO contracts and MOU’s from critical info document).
    • Find out when these contracts are renewed or reviewed.
 

BUILD A COALITION

  • If there is not a group already working on this issue then you should consider organizing a coalition of parents, family members, students, teachers, community members, etc. that support the removal of SROs from your district. Try reaching out to folks you know that might be interested – are there Parent Teacher Association members that are interested in this issue, parent affinity groups that might be willing to support the removal, or student clubs and organizations?
  • Clearly define your top priorities – what you learn after doing your research may help you break down the steps needed to remove SROs from your school.
  • Based on your research of board members and the superintendent, figure out which ones might support you and reach out to them to ask for their support (insert sample school board letter here) (insert one-page info sheet).
  • Using the petition template (insert sample here) begin collecting signatures. School events such as athletics, band concerts, play performances, or conferences might be good places to try and catch people. Again, try working with the affinity and student groups to get signatures.
  • Plan to attend a board meeting with your coalition members and encourage them to speak during an open forum.


PRESENTING/TESTIFYING AT A BOARD MEETING

  • Insert tips
  • (link sample testimony script)
  • Be prepared to present the petition with signatures to the board
  • Provide the resolution to the board (link sample here)
  • Encourage students and parents/families to testify as their experience if determined that they are safe doing so.
 

FOLLOW UP

  • It is possible that the board will have to or choose to put SRO removal off until another board meeting – this can be done for legit reasons such as needing to research the SRO contract before deciding to cancel or hold a work session to discuss the issue further or it might be a tactic to delay
  • In either case find out when they’ll be discussing it again – board agendas are usually set and made public prior to meetings – and show up.
  • Board meetings are typically held on a monthly basis, but they sometimes hold work sessions between meeting – these can be closed or open to the public. Watch for the public meeting notices and agendas
  • If the board is delaying the issue then consider speaking during open forum again along with others from your coalition.
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