Some educators have expressed that the presence of SROs in schools makes them feel safe. I think it is our responsibility to reflect upon this opinion. Many adults working in schools have had very different and usually positive interactions with police officers—in fact, for some of us, they are our family and friends. But this is not the same lived experience of all young people, particularly people of color, including Black, Latinx and Indigenous youth.
If educators are fearful for their own safety in schools, what or who are they afraid of? While it is impossible to ignore the reality of mass school shootings, there is no evidence that the presence of an SRO in a school prevents these violent attacks.There is evidence and research that indicates that school shooters are individuals who could have benefited from mental health services as well as educational interventions to address racist, sexist and homophobic opinions.
High school students do sometimes engage in fighting or other violent actions. If our ultimate goal is to minimize and prevent these incidents and help these young people, we must focus on providing the interventions and supports these students need to address mental health, anger management and trauma. If our teachers are fearful of their students, we have a lot of work to do to improve our school climate and culture.
The current movement to replace SROs in CPS schools is one that is youth-led and reflects many years of advocacy. In our recent contract campaign, the CTU fought hard to increase the number of social workers and other clinicians in our schools. This is not about attacking the character of the individuals who work as SROs. This movement is calling for systemic change in our schools that prioritizes the social and emotional well being of students and restorative practices.
I am proud to be a teacher at Taft High School—I have a great deal of love and respect for our students, families, teachers, and staff. I fully understand that our school community has varied opinions about SROs in schools and that law enforcement families are part of our school community. I ask that we all consider what is best for all of our students.
Even without SROs, we will still have many of our current safety and security measures in place that include security guards, security cameras and secure building entry doors. We can improve the lives of our students and the overall culture and climate of our school by increasing our social workers, counselors and other clinicians and focusing on our mission to educate global citizens to create a better world. We can help the larger cause by voting to remove SROs from our school. As more and more schools make this choice, it will be necessary for CPS to rethink how the $33 million dollars they spent last year on the CPS contract will be allocated to schools.