Last summer officials in Rochester, New York defunded the 12 school resource officers who were serving in the city’s public schools as the Defund Police movement took off in Democrat strongholds around the country. The move was celebrated by many in the community, who viewed the removal of the police officers as a positive step.
“In such a pivotal moment in our history, community members of Rochester can now stand ahead of the country and say that ‘yes, schools without criminalizing our black and brown children is absolutely possible,” said Iman Abid of the New York state Genesee Valley Civil Liberties Union.
Community activists, students, parents and teachers have been arguing against the placement of armed officers in city schools. Their presence, the group said, did not make many students feel secure or safe, but instead criminalized the teens and perpetuated the so-called ‘school-to-prison pipeline’.
While teachers may have cheered the loss of the school resource officers a year ago, now they and their union are asking for their return. According to educators, there’s been more violence in schools and on campus since students returned to class this fall, and many are blaming the absence of police.
The concern over violence in the district is growing so much that leaders from four teachers unions called on the RCSD superintendent and Board of Education president to take action.
“We took it upon ourselves to send a joint letter, not just alerting the danger, but also suggestions on how to improve the situation,” said Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teacher’s Association.
Some of those suggestions include increasing school safety officers, having Rochester Police at schools during dismissal times and creating alternative learning options for students acting out.
“We proposed evening sessions, remote learning for those students or alternative placement where they can get attention they need,” Urbanski explained.
Currently, there are no school resource officers in the district. The RCSD did say they are working with the Rochester Police Department to have officers outside of certain schools at the end of the day.
But while the teachers unions are ready to see a return of school resource officers, many parents are still objecting.
All nine of the parents who addressed the Rochester City School District school board Tuesday asked the district to not allow the Rochester Police Department back into schools as school resource officers.
This came after the Rochester Teacher Association sent a letter to the district saying its teachers felt unsafe.
“Our youth have told us time and again that law enforcement officers do not make them feel safer in school,” said Aria Lind of Rochester. “I am telling you, yesterday, today, tomorrow, I do not want sworn law enforcement officers in my children’s schools.”
Instead of a police presence, the parents called for more social workers in school and a “restorative justice” program. And so far, city leaders appear to be siding with them. Mayor Lovely Warren, who’s soon to leave office after pleading guilty to campaign finance charges in order to avoid facing felony gun charges and a potential prison sentence, announced on Wednesday that Rochester police officers will be stationed outside of schools on weekday afternoons, but said she has no plans to bring back school resource officers.
Now, I obviously don’t have any firsthand knowledge about the increased violence allegedly taking place in classrooms and school hallways, but I have to say I’m somewhat surprised to see the city side with parents here. After all, in Virginia Democrats are telling us parents that we shouldn’t determine what our kids are learning in class, so it came as a bit of a shock to see the Democrat mayor choose parents over the teachers unions.
Of course it was almost as shocking to see teachers unions come out in support of school resource officers, particularly since they were all on board with ditching SROs just last year. It’s amazing how quickly that changed once their own safety became a growing concern, isn’t it?
But it’s not just the schools that are becoming more dangerous. Rochester’s homicide rate is heading to a record high, even as the city council stripped millions of dollars from the police department budget. It’s no wonder that interest in gun ownership is ramping up in the city as well. And while the growing number of citizens who own firearms for self-defense is a good thing, the fact remains that there are some places where a law enforcement presence is still needed, including schools. Rochester may not be ready to admit its decision to remove school resource officers was a mistake, but now that they’ve lost the teachers unions, something tells me this issue isn’t just going to fade away.