2018 NACOLE Webinar Series

Policing Our Classrooms:  Safety, Discipline, and Bias in the School Setting

Join us July 31, 2018, at 2:00 p.m. EDT as we welcome Professors Josh Gupta-Kagan and Seth Stoughton to our next event in the 2018 NACOLE webinar series.

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School districts across the country have police officers embedded in schools in an effort to provide security and protect kids from outside threats.  Recent tragedies have made these priorities newly urgent – but law enforcement’s presence in the schools has as many critics as advocates.  Concerns about the “school to prison pipeline,” and the disparate racial impacts of arrests and prosecutions, have complicated the questions of whether and how the police should be a presence on our campuses. 

This webinar will feature two law school professors who have researched and written on these issues.  We will discuss the pros and cons of having officers in schools, and then offer some concrete ideas for addressing the risks and downsides. 

Apart from their obvious deterrent effect and ability to respond quickly, campus police officers (sometimes referred to as “School Resource Officers” or “Educational Resource Officers”) ideally contribute to the school environment in a number of ways.  Proponents point to the value of relationship-building with young people, and the forum for positive interactions that are too infrequent in many communities.  Some campus officers relish the chances to educate and mentor in their areas of expertise. 

Putting police officers in schools, though, comes with some significant risks and downsides.  There can be fine line, for example, between “community policing” and the sort of intelligence-gathering that erodes trust and leads to “mission creep.” School administrators may use the officers as an easy way to address behavior issues that have traditionally been handled as internal disciplinary matters.  And SRO programs may compete for scarce funding with other initiatives (such as more school social workers) which could also address behavior issues.

The resultant “criminalizing” of youthful misconduct has several problematic and long-term consequences.  Secondary effects include lower graduation rates and future criminality.  Another troubling factor is that black students, students with disabilities, and LGBTQ students are statistically more likely than others to have their transgressions be referred to law enforcement and result in criminal charges.

Fortunately, there are potential solutions for these issues, including tailored training for school resource officers on unconscious or implicit bias, force scenarios in schools, and interactions with students with special needs or a history of trauma.  As important as training officers is the need to develop clear, consistent understanding among school administrators and law enforcement agencies as to the role of school resource officers through memoranda of understanding, and policies governing when school officials may, may not, and shall report incidents to law enforcement.   

This webinar will explore these topics, along with strategies for developing meaningful oversight of school resource officer programs in today’s environment.


Josh Gupta-Kagan, J.D.

Josh Gupta-Kagan, J.D.Josh Gupta-Kagan is an Assistant Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina School of Law and specializes in juvenile justice and child welfare.  Prior to becoming a professor, he practiced as a Senior Attorney at the Children's Law Center, a legal services organization in the District of Columbia devoted to a wide range of children's legal issues.  He is a graduate of Yale College, the New York University School of Law, and clerked for the Hon. Marsha S. Berzon of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Professor Gupta-Kagan teaches the Juvenile Justice Clinic at the USC School of Law.  In the Clinic, he supervises third year law students who represent teenagers accused of delinquent acts in Family Court – cases which often involve incidents arising at school. 

Professor Gupta-Kagan’s scholarship has appeared in The University of Chicago Law Review, Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, Alabama Law Review, and Wisconsin Law Review, among others.  His scholarship has addressed a range of juvenile justice and child welfare issues, including the Fourth Amendment rights of children at school, and the intersections between school discipline and the criminal and juvenile justice systems.  One article analyzes reforms pursued in the wake of the high-profile 2015 incident between a school resource officer and a high school student at the Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, The School-to-Prison Pipeline’s Legal Architecture: Lessons from the Spring Valley Incident and its Aftermath.  His scholarship is available at http://ssrn.com/author=996191.

Seth Stoughton

Seth Stoughton, J.D.Seth Stoughton is an Assistant Professor at the University of South Carolina School of Law, where he is affiliated with the Rule of Law Collaborative. His scholarship focuses on the regulation of police, including police-community relations and the use of force. He is a frequent lecturer on policing issues, regularly appears on national and international media.

Seth served as an officer with the Tallahassee Police Department for five years. In that time, he trained other officers, helped create policies to govern the use of new technologies, earned multiple instructor and operator certifications, and taught personal safety and self-defense courses in the community. In 2004, he received a Formal Achievement Award for his role as a founding member of the Special Response Team. After leaving the police department in 2005, Seth spent three years as an Investigator in the Florida Department of Education's Office of Inspector General, where he handled a variety of criminal and administrative investigations. In 2008, he received a statewide award for his work combating private school tuition voucher fraud.

A graduate of Florida State University, Seth attended the University of Virginia School of Law. After law school, he clerked for the Honorable Kenneth F. Ripple of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Prior to joining the faculty at South Carolina, Seth was a Climenko Fellow and Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.

July 31, 2018 at 2:00pm - 3pm
NACOLE Webinar
Cameron McEllhiney · · 3177218133