Bill would ban police as school resource officers

Police officers no longer would have a regular presence in Nebraska schools under a bill considered by the Judiciary Committee Feb. 14.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist11' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Ernie Chambers'>Sen. Ernie Chambers</a>
Sen. Ernie Chambers

LB589, introduced by Omaha Sen. Ernie Chambers, would prohibit a peace officer who is actively employed by a law enforcement agency from serving as a school resource officer.

School resource officer programs disproportionately impact students of color and those with disabilities, Chambers said, creating the same “toxic, discriminatory impact” found in society at large.

“It is counterproductive to the purpose and goals of education and its processes, to convert conduct that in the past was handled within the school context, into a basis for arrest and entanglement in the court system with the possibility of being locked up,” he said.

The bill’s provisions would not apply to a peace officer responding to a safety threat at a school or providing security for an extracurricular event.

Rose Godinez, representing the ACLU of Nebraska, spoke in favor of the bill. Diverse communities tend to have more school resources officers, she said, which leads to a disproportionate impact on students of color.

“While adding police officers in schools may be well intentioned, educators and policymakers are overlooking the harmful and disparate educational impacts that harsh discipline … can have [on students],” Godinez said. “LB589 ends the routine policing of school which criminalizes everyday behaviors.”

Hastings Chief of Police Adam Story opposed the bill. LB589 would have a significant and negative impact on the safety and education of students in Nebraska schools, he said.

“Within our nation there has been a dramatic increase in recent years with tragic events in schools,” Story said. “Being present within our schools helps us to prevent [these events] and take immediate action to ensure the safety of our students and staff.”

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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