Students, school police, and the school-to-prison pipeline
The school-to-prison pipeline is a national trend that has emerged due to the media narrative of gang violence and increasingly rigorous policies on drugs and weapons (Heitzeg, 2009). The pipeline refers to pushing students out of educational institutions, mainly via "zero-tolerance" policies, and into the juvenile and criminal justice systems. Zero-tolerance policies were implemented in the 1980s and 1990s, when school resource officers (SROs) programs took off, criminalizing school rules, including skipping class, talking back to teachers, and dress code violations. In addition, zero-tolerance and school resource officer placements are used to control crime in our K-12 education system. Unfortunately, low-income students of color are vulnerable to in-school and out-of-school disciplinary actions, including suspension and expulsion, and involvement in our criminal justice system. On the one hand, previous research has shown that the SRO role is not beneficial in reducing juveniles involved in the criminal justice system. On the other hand, SRO's presence could prevent delinquent activity on school grounds and form healthy relationships with students. Yet, previous studies pay little attention to the SROs' perspective on students and the pipeline. This study focuses on the working experience of SROs, their interactions with students, and their view on the school-to-prison pipeline by conducting interviews with SROs in the Cleveland, Ohio, area of varying schools.