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New report calls into question the role of school resource officers in Maine

Does having more police officers in Maine schools make them safer? A new Maine report says no.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

MAINE, Maine — A study examining the impact of school resource officers (SROs) in Maine found policing alone does not reduce violence or necessarily improve school safety but could put a strain on other school resources. 

The first-ever School-Based Policing in Maine report was released by the University of Southern Maine's Cutler Institute for Health and Social Policy on Oct. 3. 

Officials conducted surveys of SROs and school district administrators in Maine, and say they found a wide variation in how Maine’s SRO programs are struc­tured and supported. 

The report finds there is a lack of statewide policies governing SROs, the roles they fill in Maine schools, how they are trained and chosen. 

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The report also found that communities are hiring more SROs while their schools are not meeting staffing requirements for support professionals such as social workers, guidance counselors, psychologists, and nurses.

“The use of a law enforcement officer in the role of a social worker is deeply concerning as it can very easily lead to breaching students’ constitutional rights,” said Ned Chester, who is a defense attorney for youth and a member of the Juvenile Justice Advisory Group. 

“Students who see an officer every day in the lunchroom are going to confide in that officer who they perceive as available and trustworthy, but what law enforcement then does with that information can have devastating impacts on the kid, their family or their peers.” 

On a national level, reports show adding more policing on school campuses has not significantly reduced school violence, but has led to more youth being referred to the juvenile justice system, particularly for behaviors that were previously handled through school disciplinary channels, according to the report.

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 The report was funded by the Maine Juvenile Justice Advisory Group.

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