Overreacting Much?


Ashlee Sunderman, Writer

Several public school incidents made headlines recently and not for good reasons. I think it boils down to school employees’ overreacting in a heated situation.

In December of 2019, a student resource officer (SRO) from Woodstock, Georgia threatened a 17-year-old student attempting to leave campus for a dentist appointment. The SRO and the administrator with him were harassing this student and began joking toward the end of the video which is unacceptable. No school official should enjoy disciplining a child, no matter the situation. Regardless of the student’s attitude and lack of respect, he was following the rules and trying to leave campus, and the adult’s actions were inappropriate. Business Insider released a video of the incident and an article containing an interview with the boy’s mother. The article reveals that the student was suspended and later expelled for the incident, and that “district officials are not investigating the incident.” The boy’s mother is pushing for consequences for all three individuals involved, not just her son, as she believes “they were all acting like children.” 47 percent of Bob Jones students polled agree that the behavior of the SRO is unacceptable, regardless of the student’s attitude. An SRO is in a school to protect the students, not to harass them.

In Tredyffrin Township, Pennsylvania, police were called on a six-year-old with down syndrome after she made a finger gun at her teacher. The girl probably didn’t know what she was doing, let alone that she shouldn’t be doing it, It’s unnecessary to call the police for such an innocent mistake.The school claims they were following protocol and knew that the girl only posed a “transient threat” despite the girl’s mother insisting that it wasn’t called for due to her daughter’s lack of knowledge about the hand gesture. 53 percent of students polled agree that the teacher should have been able to handle this situation without involving admin, let alone police. Telling the girl that a finger gun is not an acceptable gesture and informing the parents would likely have solved the problem and caused a much smaller commotion. Six-year-olds do not understand right and wrong to the extent older children would and will mess up.  A warning should have been issued, and administrators should only be involved if the problem persists. CNN reports that “police didn’t create criminal or juvenile records for Margot” but the six-year-old was already mentioned by name in a police report, which is still distasteful.

Around 30 percent of schools in the US have a student resource officer present. The primary reason for these officers is the number of school shootings this country has experienced, and police officers began working in schools more frequently after the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School. SROs play an important role in our schools, but are they causing new problems while solving others? According to NPR.org, the SRO program is rather ineffective, as there is no evidence that “adding SROs actually results in safer schools.” Perhaps the issue at hand is the level of police involvement in schools, but I’m inclined to believe the issue lies in criminalizing children, and reading too far into minor behavioral issues.

If anything, incidents like this can make us more thankful for our safe environment but also aware how much more professional training is needed in order for school employees to handle situations like this professionally and with students’ physical and mental health in mind.