Recent grad asks Durham schools to defund school resource officer program

Durham County News

DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) — In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, the Minneapolis Public School District eliminated their school resource officer program.

In the Triangle, a recent high school graduate from the Bull City is asking Durham Public Schools to do the same thing.

Aissa Dearing, 18, is a recent graduate of J.D. Clement Early College High School.

Before heading off to Howard University, she emailed a letter to Durham school officials asking them to eliminate the school resource officer program.

“I feel like SROs are more of a bandage on the problem of white supremacy,” Dearing said. “It’s not addressing the root cause.”

Dearing said she can remember seeing troubling incidents while she was in school that would have been better handled by school counselors rather than school resource officers.

“I’ve seen my fellow peers get handcuffed and get pushed on top of a police car,” Dearing said. “Not only was it a traumatic experience for them, but it was a traumatic experience for me to have to watch my friend go through that and be policed in such a harmful way.”

Dearing is asking the district to reallocate funds from the school resource officer program and use that money to hire more school counselors or social workers.

Durham Public Schools would not go on camera on Tuesday but they said in a statement they are proud of their partnership with the Durham County Sheriff’s Office.

“Our memorandum of understanding is intentional about breaking the school-to-prison pipeline, drawing a line between our school leaders’ responsibility for discipline and our SROs’ responsibility for safety, security, and support,” said Chip Sudderth, spokesperson for Durham Public Schools.

Sudderth said they are aware that the Youth Justice Project has asked for an assessment of the district’s SRO program over the next year and they are open to that. The district is also open to participating in a community forum to learn from stakeholders and develop solutions to ensure the safety and security of the students, Sudderth said.

The Durham Association of Educators said they are surveying their teachers about school resource officers in schools, but they are not ready to release a statement on the matter.

CBS 17 also reached out to Wake North Carolina Association of Educators for their thoughts on school resource officers. Wake NCAE sent the following statement:

“When school districts are making decisions about curriculum resources, they look to instructional staff for guidance. When they are making decisions about how to provide additional instructional support, they look to intervention coordinators and teachers for guidance. Much in the same way, when school districts are making decisions about responding to students’ emotional and behavioral actions, they should be looking to counselors and mental or behavioral health professionals for guidance.

We want our students and staff to have the resources they need to meet all their needs. We want our schools to be nurturing environments centered on learning and growth. We want students (and staff) to be members of learning environments that build community and focus on correction and restoration of relationships rather than punishment. We urge all school districts to prioritize these things when making funding and policy decisions.”

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