A student’s rights have historically been waived upon entering a public school campus — reasonable suspicion takes the place of probable cause and a spirit of fear permeates the supposedly welcoming community. These infringements are acting in the name of student safety and for the sake of building a positive learning environment. Yet in Palo Alto High School, the supposed aim of student resource officers (SRO) and administration has taken a different path. The Campanile believes that the role of SROs should be reexamined to better fit the mission of the Paly administration.
Paly currently employs two SROs — Dujuan Green and Ben Lee. According to the Core Course Standardized Curricula for Student Resource Officers, such officers are to not only reduce campus crime and work with students to build a safe school environment, but also provide a positive outlook on the criminal justice system and build supportive relationships with students.
But student opinion of SROs has continued to deflate as attempts at the education and counseling aspects of the SROs three tiered objective are consistently received negatively by the student population.
Additionally, in recent suspensions for possession of marijuana, Green allegedly threatened to imprison a student for resisting arrest upon refusing to confess and searched a student’s car off-campus after a tip from a fellow student.
“You find out who is the most likely to talk first, and then go up the chain from there,” Berkson said.
This protocol turns parties against each other, oftentimes in order to acquire lesser punishment, and further impacts relationships within the Paly community negatively.
The role of the SRO has deteriorated into a detached police officer with more leeway to investigate student offenses. The policy of “reasonable suspicion,” which according to Assistant Principal Jerry Berkson enables administration to look into any and all tips regarding student misconduct, has pushed student-administration relationships away from the collaboration Paly hopes to achieve.
In order for the SROs to genuinely fulfill their roles and help the Paly administration achieve its core purpose, “to affirm the potential of every Paly student in an environment of support and inspiration, where people work together and lift each other toward great personal growth,” the SROs cannot continue their unreasonable behavior. The Campanile believes that the SROs must work to put forth a more positive and supportive image in order to effectively work and communicate with the student body.
Paly administration and SROs must be unified in their efforts to truly display the message of, “We’re here for you,” as stated in Principal Kim Diorio’s letter on March 9, if they want to successfully create safe, open and respectful channels of communication to handle matters of studentdiscipline and establish a closer-knit community.