In the current debate over policing reforms, one of the steps that we’re seeing some cities take is ending the practice of having school resource officers as a daily presence in public schools. Minneapolis, Minnesota school board members have already cancelled the contract with the city’s police department, and the Oakland, California school board voted to remove school resource officers earlier this week.
Several large school districts across the country, including in Minneapolis, St Paul, Portland, Denver, and San Francisco, have moved towards getting police officers out of schools entirely, endorsing the concerns of activists who have long argued that having law enforcement in an educational setting harms black and brown students and fuels a “school to prison pipeline”.
Federal education data shows that black students are disproportionately likely to be both disciplined and arrested at school.
Black students represented 15% of the total student enrollment, but 31% of students who were referred to law enforcement or arrested during the 2015-2016 school year.
In Oakland, black students made up 26% of the enrollment and yet made up 73% of arrests in schools, according to the school board’s resolution to eliminate the school police department. Over the last four years, it noted, there have been 9,000 calls for service to the police to deal with Oakland schoolchildren.
In Los Angeles, the country’s second-largest school district, the school board heard nearly 12 hours of public comment this week, with most speakers calling for reducing or eliminating the 460 officers currently inside the city’s public schools.
Ryan Petty, whose daughter Alaina was murdered in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2018, says in a new piece at CNN that these cities are making a mistake.
…given the current environment, it may be natural for some to question why school districts spend scarce resources to have police on campus. It is because SROs are effective. These programs build relationships that make students and teachers feel safe and improve the climate and culture in our schools. SROs also collaborate with school officials to get students the help they need which has aided in a 74% decline, between 1996 and 2018, in juvenile arrests depicted in US Department of Justice data. As we mentioned, seconds count, and the 2019 NTAC report shows “No attacks were ended by outside law enforcement agencies responding to the scene from off-campus.”
Stand with Parkland — The National Association of Families for Safe Schools believes we must preserve the progress we have made together to make our nation’s schools safer as we honor those lost. The threats to schools are real. The consequences of not protecting our nation’s children and educators are devastating to families and communities alike.
Petty has also co-authored a new column at Newseek in which he lays out his argument in more personal terms.
As one of us can tell you from personal experience, there is nothing worse than sending a child to school in the morning and not having her ever come home.
It would be one thing if these school districts were putting forward plans to replace SROs with other armed staff. But the districts that are defunding school police would almost certainly deem any proposal to arm teachers—no matter how much rigorous training might be required—as anathema.
If parents believe that an extremely slight decrease in the odds of their children coming home at the end of the day is a price worth paying in exchange for the benefits (imagined or real) of removing police from schools, then it is a school board’s prerogative to respect and potentially act on that perspective.
But school boards aren’t doing this because of parents. Rather, they are tripping over themselves in order to signal their woke bona fides by conforming to the news cycle-ordained, groupthink, knee-jerk reaction of the month. If you have a child in a public school, call or email your school board member today to demand that they take no action on SROs without public comment and debate. And if you live in a district that has already made a decision affecting the safety of your kids without your input, our only advice is: Get your children out.
It’s good advice, though I suspect that Petty’s plea is going to fall on deaf ears in many cities where police are viewed by most politicians and activists with suspicion and hostility. Still, Petty not only knows firsthand the deadly consequences that can arise when police are delayed in their response to an active assailant attack, he’s spent the past two years learning about and studying the issue.
I’ve had the opportunity to speak with Ryan on Bearing Arms’ Cam & Co on several occasions over the past two years, and I feel comfortable stating that if Petty’s research had led him to the conclusion that SROs are doing more harm than good, he’d be advocating to take them out of schools. His intent is non-political and focused simply on making schools as safe as they can be for our children and the adults who work there. If he says it’s a mistake to pull these police from schools, educators should listen.