Survey: Under half of Beaverton students want police in schools
Fewer than half of students in the Beaverton School District express support for having police officers in schools, according to a new survey conducted on behalf of the district.
A comprehensive review of the Beaverton School District's school resource officer program concluded last month after six months of research and collecting input from the school community.
While just 43% of the 3,733 Beaverton students who responded to the survey said they want to have officers in schools, 30% said they don't know enough to have an opinion on school resource officers, or SROs.
One student responded to the survey, "I've never even heard of an SRO."
SeeChange's first "key finding" from the comprehensive review is that most people aren't formally informed about the roles of SROs and what to expect from them. Even the answers from these police officers about their roles at school varied.
"Staff shared experiences of inconsistent use of SROs and a lack of district-wide standards and expectations for how and when SROs are engaged," the report said. "This variability and discretion have significant consequences for students' involvement with the juvenile justice system."
Survey answers between students, teachers and staff also varied on their opinion of having SROs in Beaverton schools.
About 71% of parents and 66% of staff support having SROs in schools, compared to the 43% in students. The most common response from these groups about why they support the program was that officers have special training to deal with emergencies, can stop a crime from happening and can stop someone who is harming others, specifically relating to school shootings.
Because the surveys and focus groups related to this student ended before the May 24 elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, the report does not show how the community's perceptions of school resource officers changed after the shooting.
The survey also showed more Black students, LGBTQ and nonbinary students in the district — plus their parents — are opposed to SROs compared to students and parents overall. Students from Arts & Communication Magnet Academy, Community School and International School oppose SROs at much higher rates than other schools, too.
The report says several students reported specific negative interactions with SROs, and all but one were either female or nonbinary.
"At best, they say police involvement did not help them; in some cases, it hurt them and negatively impacted their educational experience," the report said.
Despite these differences, SeeChange reported that most parents, students and staff all agree that police are needed for certain situations involving extreme physical violence or school shootings.
Many parents — even those who are supportive of police in general — think there are ways to achieve that common ground without regularly putting police in schools, the report said.
SeeChange reported that at least 50 school districts across the country — locally, including Portland Public Schools and the Forest Grove School District — have eliminated or cut down their school resource officer programs in the past two years. A few districts have since reinstated them, sometimes with changes, such as in Forest Grove.
The review goes on to suggest changes for Beaverton's SRO program.
The Beaverton School District's website says the review is meant to gather information that will lead to decisions about the SRO program, but no decisions have been made. The school board and Beaverton City Council are currently reviewing the report and considering the suggestions, the site says.
SeeChange says the current guidelines for SROs in Beaverton schools are too broad. The firm suggests the district should limit officers to specific, structured duties like active shooter training and response, calls related to extreme violence, and collecting illegal substances.
The report suggestions police should not maintain desk spaces at any schools except as needed to consult with school staff; should not be involved in violations of school rules that do not violate the law; and should not have a major role in responding to mental health emergencies.
There aren't any standardized training requirements for the officers involved in Beaverton's SRO program. SeeChange suggests trainings related to active shooters in schools, "trauma-informed" approaches and more.
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