Education Week - October 11, 2017 - 15
encourages them to take action only for serious crimes involving weapons.
Second, SROs must understand the adolescent brain.
When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down life sentences
without parole and the death penalty for juveniles (in Miller
v. Alabama and Roper v. Simmons, respectively), the court
cited research in both rulings to show that the part of the
brain that translates emotion into logic is not fully developed until age 25. Despite teenagers' intellectual and creative activity, they are prone to risk-taking behaviors and
When adults respond by overreacting with harsh punishments, they end up aggravating the circumstances-which
can result in a student repeating the same offense. To avoid
this result, educators and SROs should employ positive alternatives that address the behavior's cause instead of punishing the symptom.
For example, in my home state of Georgia, some schools
use the research-based Positive Behavioral Interventions
and Supports framework. The schools that use this model
have experienced a significant reduction in disciplinary referrals and out-of-school suspensions and increases in graduation rates by as much as 14 percent in some counties. After
more than a decade, our students of color are as likely to
be referred to court as white students on the same offense.
Overall, school referrals to the court have declined by 91 percent since 2003.
Third, the study recommends trauma-informed approaches
to discipline. In my county, we created a nonprofit to provide
chronically disruptive students with trauma-informed supports. When students suffer from trauma, their disruptive
behavior becomes their language. Treatments for disruptive
behaviors should attack the underlying causes of that behavior.
It is not enough for schools to take steps to improve the role
of SROs. Local policymakers who are close to the juvenilejustice system, including judges, must step up to the plate
if we are ever to create fairer law systems for all students. n
STEVEN C. TESKE is the chief presiding judge of the juvenile court in
Clayton County, Ga. He is the national chair of the Coalition for Juvenile
Justice, a nonprofit in Washington that advocates for equitable and effective
they are assigned. They are partners with
the school district, not the administrators'
personal 9-1-1 officers.
We should therefore pay close attention
to candidates' motivations to assume this
role. Are they volunteering for the job or
have they been assigned to it? Do they really want to help youths and keep them out
School and community members' involvement in the process of interviewing and selecting the SROs can further clarify their
roles and expectations.
3. We must make sure the SROs are
adequately prepared to do their job.
Anyone who works in schools should receive special training to better understand
today's youths and the problems they face.
School resource officers' training must be
thorough, up-to-date, and go beyond standard training as a law-enforcement officer.
In addition to having this basic SRO
training, these officers should have access to specialized training in accordance
with the specific expectations of the local
law-enforcement/school/community partnership. That might include training in
adolescent brain development, de-escalating threatening situations, mental-health
awareness and how to make referrals,
understanding special needs, or more. If
the SRO is trained with members of the
school community, everyone can be on the
4. We should define policy for a
stronger partnership. What is the policy that guides the partnership between
When adults respond
by overreacting with
they end up
Want to learn more about how
school discipline policies affect girls
of color? In an online-only sidebar,
two of the aforementioned report's
authors-Monique W. Morris of the
National Black Women's Justice
Institute and Rebecca Epstein of the
Georgetown Law Center on Poverty
and Inequality-expand on their
policy recommendations to improve
interactions between girls of color
and SROs. Additional resources
include videos, Q&As, and an
Education Week original report on
police in U.S. schools.
school districts and law enforcement? An
official memorandum of understanding
can help bridge the gap between law enforcement and the community so that all
partners understand the role of the SROs.
This policy should include a clear statement that school discipline is not part of
5. We must engage community partners. Keeping schools safe is the responsibility of more than just the education
and law-enforcement partners. School/
law-enforcement partnerships should
identify and team up with other community partners that care about safe schools.
For example, local mental-health providers may be able to offer supports to help
youths and their families when needed.
The choice about whether to have lawenforcement officers in schools is an
important local decision that should be
weighed by educators, law enforcement,
parents, and other community stakeholders. Those collaborators should carefully
consider these lessons to guide them in
the process. In doing so, local communities can give our youths the supports they
need to stay in school-and out of the
criminal-justice system. n
JOHN ROSIAK is an educator, trainer, and
facilitator who has supported school/lawenforcement partnerships around the country since
the 1980s. He is the founder and principal of
Prevention Partnerships, which provides training
and technical support for school, law-enforcement,
mental-health, and juvenile-justice stakeholders.
Civics Education Shouldn't
Put Students to Sleep
By Andrew Wilkes & Scott Warren
his year, students across from high school. At face value, this may
the country are encoun- make sense.
tering an unforgiving
But this is the wrong solution. When
climate. Some of these Sputnik was launched by the Rusclimate challenges are sians into orbit, the response was not
literal-the disasters to ensure that all of America's students
of Hurricanes Harvey, memorized the periodic table. Instead,
Irma, Jose, and Maria. we began a nationwide movement foSome of them are manifested through cused on educating young people to
polarized and toxic politics. And some master science, technology, engineerare educational, as the debate on school ing, and math. Yes, in order to launch a
choice heats up in a struggle for the rocket into space, a mastery of the periheart of public education.
odic table is probably necessary. But the
Now, more than ever, it is incumbent skills required to solve complex scientific
to prioritize educating young people to problems are more relevant.
become active citizens, leaders capable of
Similarly, teaching rote civics is intackling the problems they face in their sufficient in tackling the most pressing
communities head on. We need a nation- problems in our democracy. Let us not
wide embrace of civics education that fall into the trap of focusing on the facts
brings the subject back into the curricu- that students don't know. We need a new
lum. But just as important, civics educa- approach.
tion must be revitalized. Civics should
This is what we are trying to do with
not be a subject that's very mention
Action Civics, a project-based
makes people fall asleep. It
approach to civics educacan-and must-be the
tion first coined by the
most exciting and
the most important
class in school.
developed in coCalling for a
on civics for
we serve as
may seem trite.
In the wake
of the vitriolic
of policy and
2016 presidenadvocacy, retial election, many
have called for a
one of a number of
return to the original
initiatives trying to
goal of public educaengage a new generaGetty
tion-to ensure that young
tion of citizens in the rights
people are capable of assuming the
and responsibilities of democracy.
mantle of our democracy as informed Rather than sitting through a lecture on
citizens. Educators and public officials the three branches of government and takalike speak of the importance of "civics ing a test, middle and high school students
education." Indeed, test scores support learn civics by taking action on issues they
this widespread perception that we care about. They might, for example, exare not adequately prioritizing civics plore the issue of police-community relain America's schools: only a quarter of tions by learning about executive mayoral
8th graders scored "proficient" or above oversight of the police department, while
in the most recent civics section of the simultaneously advocating for legislative
National Assessment of Educational policy that will address a lack of body
cameras. After learning about the role of
And this concerning trend is not lim- climate change in the recent hurricanes,
ited only to young people: Only 26 per- they can pressure their local governments
cent of Americans can name all three to explore alternative forms of energy or
branches of government, according to upgrade the town sewage system. As they
a recent survey from the Annenberg learn about pH levels in chemistry class,
Public Policy Center. A third cannot they might measure their school's water
name any at all. More than a third can- safety and present their findings to their
not name any of the rights guaranteed local sanitation department.
under the First Amendment.
Suddenly, civics is not boring. It is the
These statistics are dire. It is chal- most relevant class in school.
lenging to be an effective citizen if you
Let's use the crisis in our democracy as
do not know how government works. As a moment to revitalize civics education.
long as students have an inadequate un- Let's not just return to the past. If we
derstanding of how our political system can make civics the most exciting class
works, civic engagement will remain in school for young people, imagine the
wonders that can do for our democracy. n
Strengthening democracy requires
deepening young people's grasp of es- SCOTT WARREN is a co-founder and the CEO
sential facts-naming the branches of Generation Citizen, a national nonprofit
of government, identifying the Bill of organization that promotes civics education
Rights, and so on. In response to this through curricula support and educator
trend, a handful of states have already professional development. ANDREW WILKES is
begun to require that students pass the the director of policy and advocacy for Generation
U.S. citizenship test in order to graduate Citizen.
EDUCATION WEEK | October 11, 2017 | www.edweek.org | 15