Portland – The ACLU of Maine sent a letter to the Portland School Board urging it to end the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. The Board will vote today on whether to renew its contract with the Portland Police Department, and continue the use of armed police officers at two Portland high schools.

The ACLU’s letter responds to Portland Police Chief Frank Clark’s letter from June 16. In his letter, Chief Clark argues that school resource officers improve feelings of safety among students. However, research undertaken in Portland and nationally finds the contrary. While some students may feel safer, students of color – especially Black students – feel intimidated and unsafe with the officers’ presence in their schools.

The following can be attributed to Michael Kebede, policy counsel at the ACLU of Maine:

"Local and national research tells us that SROs, like other law enforcement, disproportionately target students of color, and especially Black students. The school board should center and pay special consideration to the experiences of the students most adversely impacted by the presence of SROs.

"Instead of hiring armed police officers to address adolescent behavior, the school board should reallocate their resources for school social workers and counselors, who are trained to help young people manage the normal difficulties of growing up."

The full text of the letter is here.