Richmond Schools as Real-World Social Science Experiment

School Superintendent Jason Kamras said yesterday that he will ask the Richmond School Board to remove school resource officers (SROs) from city schools and use the money to hire more mental health professionals. He made no mention of removing school security guards.

Most of the arrests made in Richmond schools in 2019-20 were for simple assault, marijuana or disorderly conduct, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Marijuana possession has been decriminalized, and it is now illegal to arrest students for disorderly conduct on school property.

“Talk is cheap, and we need action,” Kamras told a group of students during a Facebook Live event. “I think it’s the right thing to do and it’s what our kids have asked for.

Faith Flippo, who overseas SROS for the Richmond Police Department, expressed concern. “I think taking that away from the schools, I think that’s tragic. I worry about what that brings and what that does to our schools. Our response time is imperative, that’s one of the good things about having an officer in the schools.”

Naturally, some people think Kamras isn’t going far enough. Said Cassie Powell of the Legal Aid Justice Center: “It’s really important to also include the removal of school security officers and dismantling school security officers. If we just remove SROs and replace them with more school security officers, it’s not going to solve the school push-out problem, it’s not going to solve the school-to-prison pipeline.”

Once again, Virginians get to stand on the sidelines and watch a social experiment as it unfolds. Richmond schools have emphasized a restorative justice approach to school discipline in recent years. The city has a five-year plan to reduce suspensions and expulsions. The idea is to reduce harm caused by crime instead of punishing crime-doers. Removing police officers from middle and high schools will double down on this approach.

What will be the impact on school discipline and the learning environment?

One hypothesis is that students will respond positively to the lifting of traditional restraints, and that the emphasis on emotional coaching and de-escalation techniques will lead to an improvement in behavior. Call that the social justice scenario. A diametrically opposite hypothesis is that the lifting of restraints will signal to students they can do whatever they want without fear of repercussions.  Call that the Lord of the Flies scenario.

Educators, politicians and pundits can argue the pros and cons endlessly without coming to a consensus. Sometimes, you’ve just got to go ahead and try something and see what happens. Personally, I anticipate something closer to a Lord of the Flies outcome, but, what the heck, I might be wrong. Let’s find out! I’m just glad that my kid isn’t one of the guinea pigs.


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5 responses to “Richmond Schools as Real-World Social Science Experiment”

  1. James Wyatt Whitehead V Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead V

    The removal of the School Resource Officer from the Sheriff’s Department and the dismantling of School Security Specialists employed by the school board is not in the best interests of students. I recently retired from Briar Woods High School in Ashburn. Our deputy was indispensable. The School Security Specialist was a 20 year retired Metropolitan PD detective. These two fellows were able to deal with so much and in a very positive way. There is a great deal of serious crime that occurs at school, at home, and on the streets. The SRO and the school security guy made a great team and built positive relationships with many troubled students. They kept our school safe and were proactive in doing their part to build a good school climate. I believe Loudoun County is going to follow the footsteps of Richmond. If normal school ever resumes this plan will instantly reveal itself as a total failure. School administrators, counselors, etc are simply overwhelmed with an avalanche of responsibilities and a great number of them lack the expertise and life experience to effectively deal with societies problems that students bring to school. I worked at nationally ranked school. I can only imagine how important the SRO and the School Security guy is to the leaders of our most troubled schools.

  2. “A diametrically opposite hypothesis is that the lifting of restraints will signal to students they can do whatever they want without fear of repercussions. Call that the Lord of the Flies scenario.”

    Isn’t that how it’s working on the streets of Richmond at night for demonstrators now?

  3. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    It would seem that Richmond is getting rid of both the school resource officerrs and the school security officers. The SROs are employees of the police department and the SSOs are employees of the school board. If Kamras is going to save some money by this move to be used to hire mental health folks, then he would have to get rid of the SSOs, as well.

    There is a lively debate in the school safety community as to whether SROs are effective or whether they contribute to criminalizing student misconduct.

  4. WayneS Avatar

    I thought School Resource Officers were placed in schools primarily to provide a way to have positive interactions between law enforcement and children who otherwise may have only negative perceptions of police officers. This is, at least, what I was told as a parent back when a resource officer was first placed in the school my son was attending.

    It would certainly explain why a school would have both security guards and resource officer(s).

  5. Top-GUN Avatar

    “Once again, Virginians get to stand on the sidelines and watch a social experiment as it unfolds.”
    You gotta Love those liberals using school children for their social experiments… I thought we taxpayers were being forced to pay for educating children, not research…
    Almost as bad as using blacks for syphilis research!!

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