Role of police in schools: Southern IL school administrator, officer weigh-in

What role do police serve in school discipline?
Bales receiving the highest award given to a CCHS staff member by students. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
Bales receiving the highest award given to a CCHS staff member by students. (Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
(Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)
(Source: Giacomo Luca, KFVS)

CARBONDALE, IL (KFVS) - A recent incident between a former sheriff's deputy and a 16-year-old high school student at South Carolina High School is raising the question of what role police officers have in schools.

The Carbondale Community High School District 165 in southern Illinois has had a school resource officer program since 2011. District superintendent Steven Murphy said the program has been a great success.

"Day in and day out I want our school to feel welcoming to our students," Murphy said. The Herrin, Ill. native has worked with the district since 2001.

Murphy said very few students have negative interactions with the high school resource officer, Barry Bales with the Carbondale Police Department. He went on to say the number of suspensions have decreased from 35 to just 10 per year since Bales began service.

Officer Bales has 16 years of experience in law enforcement,  and said he has never been happier with his career.

His approach to law enforcement and his position as a school resource officer even won him the highest award given by students at CCHS.

Bales was awarded the Charles Leming Student Council Award in May of 2015, the award is named after a former Government teacher and given to one staff member each year for going above and beyond for students.

"I have a great  opportunity to talk to kids on a daily basis have a repair with them, I can speak with them many times," Bales said. "Trying to have an opportunity to have impact or influence in their life. And sometimes when kids do have a need, I enjoy being there to try and answer a question or help them with that."

Looking deeper at the South Carolina incident caught on camera, Murphy said he didn't have all the facts, but said it's not CCHS' policy to call an officer for the issue described.

"The administration of a school should never put a student or an officer in that position," Murphy said. "We should deescalate the situation rather than escalate it."

It's within the power of law enforcement officers to remove students from a classroom by force if they've been asked to leave and if they're considered to be trespassing, Bales said. However, the amount of force being used would need to be justified.

Murphy said there should be few instances where an officer is called to use force inside a school. Eminent threats to students, teachers or officers would be an instance, Murphy said. He went on to say in most cases the school administration should be able to handle non-violent disciplinary incidents.

"We need to fix when we got somebody doing something wrong, but we don't want to paint with a whole brush everyone else that's doing everything right in public education," Murphy said.

Around 82,000 school resource officers are in 43 percent of all public schools in the United States.

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