LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Should Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) have school resource officers (SROs)? It's a conversation that has sparked debate in Louisville.
In 2019, JCPS cut ties with local police supplying SROs when Louisville Metro Police Department (LMPD) had to reassign officers for budgeting reasons.
However in the wake of recent shootings involving students, like the death of Tyree Smith, a JCPS student who was killed at a bust stop last month, the conversation was reignited.
According to the National Association of Education Statistics, at least 42% of schools had one SRO present at least one day a week during the 2015-2016 school year.
There isn't updated data on the number of SROs in schools because they are not required to register and schools are not required to report.
Teancum Clark has been an SRO in Bartholomew County, Indiana for over three years. He believes the percentage needs to be higher and is calling for SROs in all schools.
"Properly, carefully selected, specifically trained, properly equipped SROs should be in every school," Clark said. "100% absolutely beneficial there is no downside to having that person there."
But one reoccurring question is, 'Where does their job start and where does it end?'
Clark said the job doesn't end when the students leave school.
"We want to be a part of the school, and I do not believe there are walls put on that," he said.
He referenced multiple situations where he and his fellow SROs had dealt with issues off school grounds.
"We got wind of that way before it happens and we are able to place a couple of officers behind the Taco Bell at 4:45 just because we got a random message," he said.
Opponents fear excessive force from officers or the targeting of minority students.
Clark argues that training and labels are key to prevent those situations. He went through specific training through the National Association of School Resource Officers and said there is a clear distinction in approach from an SRO and an officer who typically works on the street.
"To have any road patrol officer show up to a school and try to handle a situation can be taxing and difficult," Clark said. "It can put that student and administrator at risk, it can put that officer at risk."
Clark recognized why parents and students may be concerned about SROs but he said he believes they have changed the culture in his district.