Attention, Gloria Reyes
In a previous post, we reproduced some of the chatter from NextDoor social media on Cops in Madison WI four public high schools — the issue that can never be settled, apparently. The thread is exploding with content running six to one or better in favor of keeping the police. Even more lopsided is the support for school resource officers from parents of students. Here is one of those, from Bonnie of Midvale Heights:
This is my daughter’s experience, in her words, at an MMSD High School (and why I care strongly about this):
I am a freshman at Memorial High School, and although I cannot speak for all experiences with SRO’s in our district, I thought I would share a few scenarios in which I have seen their involvement.
In October, graffiti was discovered in the bathroom at our high school. It included references to the Columbine shooting and other depicted images of gun violence. When later in the day pictures of this graffiti were shared on social media, people became afraid that what the school termed simply as “graffiti” may be more along the lines of a threat. The student was arrested on account of “a tentative disorderly conduct charge.” MMSD sent out an understated email. No added security in place. No increased police presence. No lockdown or additional precautions set in place. No news story. However, despite taking no further safety precautions, students were more at ease knowing there was an armed officer in the school, with extensive prior knowledge of the school and relationships with students and faculty should it have turned into more than “graffiti.”
That same day, one of my close friends was threatened with a picture of a gun. Teachers were informed, and the SRO was notified in the event that the situation escalated.
The following day, another one of my friends received texts from an unknown number that included gun violence threats. She went to the SRO at our school, and using the police they were able to trace the number. School counselors and psychologists were also used in order to mediate between the two students.
In November, two stolen cars were abandoned in the Jefferson parking lot. Although not all issues begin within the school, incidents often take place on school property. The SRO’s are needed to not only deal with problems within the school, but also to protect students from external threats.
In December there was a fight (not on school grounds) that resulted in additional police involvement at the school. Although the SRO and other faculty members are able to handle many situations, other police are very much needed. Removing the SRO’s from MMSD high schools would only increase the need for police presence, including those without prior experience with the school.
Later in December, a fight broke out between a large group of students near the entrance to the school. The SRO responded, and called for additional assistance from MPD.
In January, students were returning to Memorial when an adult in a vehicle “engaged verbally” with the students. The students reported that they displayed a gun. The SRO was then involved.
Later in January, during school hours, Memorial’s SRO was informed by 911 of a student attempting to gain access into the school through a secured door while holding a knife. The SRO, with the help of a dean and security assistant brought the student into custody.
Less than a week later, a staff member received information of a student allegedly threatening to bomb Memorial High School. An officer in the school gave added protection and was able to assist the Madison Police Department in conducting a thorough search of the common areas for suspicious materials.
Numerous times while in classes, there have been fights, intense arguments, and other events that have required deans and the SRO to intervene in order to keep everyone safe and preserve an adequate learning environment. SRO’s and additional police presence is always used as a last resort. First, a teacher will attempt to resolve the situation. If the problem is not resolved, Deans and other security personnel are then called.
They do an amazing job and are respected and loved by the students.
In the occasions when more help is needed, however, it is very beneficial to have an SRO in the school, with previously built relationships and experience, able to already be at the school ready to intervene. Even in scenarios where one officer is not able to completely solve the problems, they are able to assist other police officers who may not have as much experience in these situations.
Taking out the SRO’s from the MMSD high schools would not decrease the need for police presence. It would only transfer the responsibility from a well-known, trusted officer that has the students’ best interests in mind, to a less-equipped officer, perhaps even one of the bad apples that just so happened to be the nearest to the scene.
Although in an ideal situation schools would not need officers, students would feel less threatened by an officer they had already had experience with, and who is dedicated to providing the best protection for every student.