School counselors replacing school resource officers? State lawmakers consider it

On Wednesday, Black and Hispanic students urged state lawmakers to replace police with school counselors and social workers. But many counselors said they don’t want the job.

John Craven

Mar 1, 2023, 10:20 PM

Updated 450 days ago

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School resource officers are a routine sight across Connecticut. On Wednesday, Black and Hispanic students urged state lawmakers to replace police with school counselors and social workers. But many counselors said they don’t want the job.
Some parents believe SROs make schools safer.
“It's a lot of things going on in school and stuff like that in the street,” said Agata Cappello, of Norwalk. “It's good to have security.”
But students told a legislative hearing that police in schools simply lead to more arrests.
“When I was 11 years old, I had the police called to the school for trying to walk home after a difficult end to my school day, as opposed to waiting for my mother to pick me up,” said New London student Andrea Kitchen-Walker.
A report from Connecticut Voices for Children found, in schools with SROs, students were twice as likely to be referred to law enforcement – and Black students were 17 times more likely to get arrested.
Across the state, 66% of school systems use police or outside security, according to the Office of Legislative Research. In 10% of those districts, they're armed.
A new bill would let school counselors, social workers, psychologists and aides perform the duties of a school resource officer.
“We have counselors; we have social workers,” said Shineika Fareus, another student from New London. “We have folks that their education has been focused on how to act and de-escalate situations.”
But numerous school counselors told the legislature’s Education Committee that they have deep concerns.
In written testimony, Renée Seufert, a counselor at East Haven High School, wrote: “I have no interest in being trained to have any physical or forceful control over students.”
Lawmakers from both parties struggled with the issue.
“These school shootings happen, OK? I was in Sandy Hook on Dec. 14,” said state Rep. Christopher Poulos (D-Southington). “I teach in a district and I live in a district that I represent, both of which have school resource officers. And they're there because we're trying to keep kids safe.”
Police also pushed back.
“Our towns have been very supportive of this program,” said Groton Police Chief L.J. Fusaro, head of the Connecticut Police Chief’s Association. “It’s important to note there are established mandatory policies that all officers must adhere to regarding use-of-force."
Many hope to find a compromise.

“I think what we need to figure out is – why is it, in some places, not working?”, said state Rep. Lezlye Zupkus (R-Prospect). “And why, in others, it is.”

The bill would also improve transparency by making agreements between school districts and police departments available online.
The proposal is likely to undergo changes before the Education Committee votes on it by March 27. To submit testimony, click here.


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