ONC reporting – Advocacy groups said they are concerned about the lack of accountability surrounding Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s $388 million proposal to staff schools with police officers known as school resource officers.

Cyan Blackwell, policy strategist for the ACLU of Ohio, explained the increased presence of police in schools over the past few decades has led to students being criminalized for behavior once handled by a principal, such as using a cell phone in class or disrespecting a teacher.

“We’ve been relying heavily on police officers to respond to these minor infractions. Which has often led to exclusionary discipline practices such as suspending a student from school or expelling a student, as well as school-based arrests and referrals to juvenile court.”

TaKasha Smith, executive director of the Juvenile Justice Coalition, believes there should be guardrails around the proposed funding to help determine the effectiveness of adding school resources officers, and to boost transparency for families.

“Some really simple first steps to increase trust for the community, for the schools, for the children is that police officers who have excessive use of force, who have those claims on the record, should not be dealing primarily with our kids.”

Alison Paxson, senior policy associate for the Children’s Defense Fund-Ohio, acknowledged school safety is not a one-size-fits-all issue, and said school administrators need funding flexibility to best serve students.

“We need to ensure local control is honored for schools to choose to hire a school counselor instead of a police officer based on their own local contexts and needs.”

According to the ACLU, Ohio schools average one school counselor for every 500 students in the classroom.

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