Beginning last year, Cordova High School gained a new School Resource Officer, Tracey Jacobs, who graduated from CHS in 1990. SRO Jacobs has worked with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department for 15 years, and for the Rancho Cordova Police Department since 2007. She is regularly seen at CHS supporting athletics as well as other events on campus and engaging with students throughout the day.
CHS also hired additional counselors last year, now supplying four additional support staff for students. Ms. Del Agostino and Ms. Calander work as psychologists, and Ms. Creyssels and Ms. Powell work as mental health specialists.
These positions aren’t unknown to schools, but not many institutions in California have had the opportunity to supply their students with both police assistance and sustainable counselor resources.
According to an American Civil Liberties Union report, 400,000 students in the state of California attend a school that has a police officer but not a counselor.
The ACLU report used federal data that had not been released publicly until 2018 to make the claim that schoolchildren in America are over-policed and under-supported by mental health workers.
This reality harms school environments, increases students’ anxiety, and exacerbates discipline issues among students of color and those with disabilities, the report states.
Researchers and social scientists believe that only having police patrolling campus creates a tense atmosphere, one that stimulates more disorder. More so, when students do not have mental health counseling available, their negative scholarship is not truly stopped, for they only face consequences such as detention or suspension, depending on the case. Simply put, a police officer or SRO is not able to provide the same assistance as a counselor.
On our own campus, Cordova High School appears to have an equal balance of both types of counselors. Supplying students with a broad range of assistance allows for them to be able to seek a solution to any problem they have, personal or academic-related.
SRO Jacobs is able to keep students in order, merely by being an authority figure, yet she still interacts with students and keeps a friendly demeanor. But, if violence or an attack was to break out, Jacobs would be able to take action along with the CHS security guards.
Having mental health and psychologists on campus provides students with an adult to go to when they are overwhelmed or anxious. But their assistance doesn’t stop there, for instance, if SRO Jacobs is continuously having to keep her eye on an unruly student, she can refer them to one of the mental health counselors. There, the student will be able to get additional support, and instead of continually taking punitive measures, they can implement preventive ones to aid the student.
Where SRO Jacobs can implement disciplinary consequences, such as detention, Saturday school, or a meeting with the Vice Principal, a mental health counselor can promote holistic methods for helping the student. When speaking to Ms. Calander about the steps she takes to mentally assist a student, she says, “I begin with holistic methods, including diet, sleep, exercise. These methods help lesson mental health flare-ups, which are typically what students experience. Family, friends, and strong community-based support are recommended so that the student has someone to turn to immediately.”
While not all students have access to multiple resources, it’s clear that schools must provide students with both preventive and punitive measures. Both figures are essential to keeping peace, safety, and positivity on campus.