Wednesday’s message from legislators and activists left little for interpretation, as they introduced a new bill seeking clarity on the use and responsibilities of school resource officers in Connecticut. They said there are people, and other modes that should be used to address student behavior.
“Connecticut’s legislature must work harder to fund alternative solutions to school resource officers, such as appropriately trained school counselors, social workers, psychologists, aids, community health workers even to meet the compounding and growing needs of youth,” said Claudine Constant, public policy and advocacy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut.
Sen. Gary Winfield (D - New Haven) introduced a bill seeking to address this issue. He said children of color are disproportionately ending up in the nation’s criminal justice system, but hopes this legislation tackles the issue through the roots of education.
“We are calling for a change in the way interactions are handled, and we are calling for accountability and what these interactions actually look like with our students,” said Nicole Broadus, organizing manager at Hearing Youth Voices.
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This bill is an update to legislation that was crafted roughly eight years ago.
"To establish a clear and bright line as to where discipline falls in the realm of the school and where the other stuff falls in the realm of the police,” Sen. Winfield said.
In a statement, State Rep. Greg Howard (R - Ledyard) voiced his disappointment with the bill. He acknowledged differences in approach throughout the state.
"What works in our corner of the state, may not work in others. Likewise, what doesn’t work there, may work here," Howard said. "Policymakers should be fostering more constructive ways to mentor our youth, not target effective ways that help."
Winfield and others present at Wednesday’s conversation, say the new bill represents progress, and hope it resets the groundwork for how Connecticut schools address behavior.
“It’s time that we end the school to prison pipeline, which eventually costs us more in the end and we need to prioritize equipping schools with the proper resources to help our children thrive in a safe and inclusive school environment,” Broadus said.
The bill also called for local districts to make information on the roles and responsibilities of school resource officers readily available.