Starting in mid 2020, the anti-police activists focused their rage upon not only municipal law enforcement agencies but school police as well. For reasons that defy common sense, the narrative suggests that having uniformed officers in schools is somehow detrimental to the student population. In unison, school policing entities across the country became the target of the “defund” movement and many districts (and higher education institutions too) dutifully followed the creed by reducing or eliminating the ranks of safety officers. As we approach 2022, districts are beginning to rethink their hasty decisions, and some are reverting back to the legacy models of officer-enhanced school safety.
Between the lines
The advocates for school police defunding continue to beat the drum and are taking their case to the people through community activism and media blitzes. Some communities are now having an epiphany that schools are, in fact, still in need of campus safety. I have yet to see any empirical evidence to validate the hypothesis that officers in schools are a detriment to students. To the contrary, all we have seen to date is anecdotal rhetoric and innuendo without any hard facts. Our experience tells us that officers on school campuses perform a number of valuable functions including intelligence gathering, mentoring, teaching and responding to threats in real time. The November, 2020 article entitled Some school districts defund SROs while others view them as invaluable by Pauline Liu provides significant examples of the importance of the school safety officer. Although written almost a year ago, the details outlined by Ms. Liu are still relevant today.
Going forward, this issue will likely continue to be bantered around across the country. The sad reality is that school violence, which has been on a COVID hiatus, is likely to resurrect as we emerge from the pandemic era. My hope is that sanity will prevail in the long run and more officers will return to schools in the near future. In the meantime, groups such as the National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) highlight the positive work of school officers nationally. It is unfortunate, but our society has become de-sensitized to school violence to the point where incidents don’t make their way into the daily news cycles as they once did. NASRO posts information regularly about the fine work of the SRO – check out the NASRO News Releases for further details.
Lastly, it is critical for police and community leaders to stress the importance of funding SRO and other school safety initiatives. My fear is that the catalyst for the reinstatement of school officers will come as the result of an active shooter or similar situation whereby the value of officers in schools will be resurrected at the expense of human tragedy. We should all continue to support school officers and educate the public as to their proven value; it’s the very least we can do during these challenging times.