Suspension of Garner girl for smelling of marijuana raises questions about SRO training

Garner Magnet High School

GARNER, N.C. (WNCN) – CBS North Carolina is investigating the training that School Resource Officers get after a Garner Magnet High School student was suspended when officials thought she smelled of marijuana.

School officials suspended Jakayla Johnson, 15. According to Wake County School documents, Johnson was suspended because:

“… for her hands to smell so pungently of marijuana she would have to have possessed it in her hands at some recent point in time”

Johnson’s mom immediately took her to a lab for a drug test, which came back negative for any drugs. But  the school refused to allow Johnson to return to classes.

Since this story aired, many viewers have shared it online and commented on the school actions, asking how is smell enough to determine possession of drugs.

School officials said even though there is no specific policy on determining possession of drugs based on scent, they do allow school resource officers the ability to use their best judgment in these situations.

In Wake County, every single school resource officer is a member of the Wake County Sheriff’s Department.

To be a resource officer in any part of North Carolina you have to be a member of a law enforcement agency.

According to the North Carolina Justice Academy website, 400 hours of training are required to be a school resource officer, or SRO.

Within those 400 hours, more than 70 hours are focused on ethics and training specifically to be a SRO.

According to Johnson’s official notice of student suspension from Wake County Schools, the entire incident began when an SRO smelled marijuana from the hall. The officer then followed that smell to Johnson’s classroom; that’s when she was singled out.

However, not everyone agrees with this system.

Lori Brown, professor and coordinator of the criminology program at Meredith College, said police in the schools is over-enforcement.

“It’s overkill. It’s an unnecessary use of officers and it really does put more kids into the system,” she said. “That is what 911 is for. If you have a problem and you have a need for an officer, you hit 911 and they’ll be there in a few minutes. You don’t need one in school.”

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