MMSD Board votes to remove SROs from schools, proposal heads to Common Council

If the Common Council votes in support, School Resource Officers will no longer be stationed in the district’s high schools.
Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 4:42 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - The Madison Metropolitan School District Board has unanimously voted in support of ending the school board’s contract with the Madison Police Department to have School Resource Officers stationed in Madison schools.

The proposal to end the contract now heads to the Madison Common Council, who are scheduled to vote on July 14. If the Common Council votes in support, School Resource Officers will no longer be stationed in the district’s schools.

In a news release on Monday, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway expressed her support for the proposal, and promised the Common Council would also pass it.

“This is an important piece of the conversation about re-imagining public safety, and I am confident that the schools will develop smart new models for safety and equity that will serve all children and our community well,” the mayor said in the release.

She also called on the State of Wisconsin to provide the funds needed to support such new models. The mayor said the City of Madison will lobby that support.

Protesters in Madison have been calling for SROs to be removed for weeks, arguing that police officers’ presence in high schools have a proportionally negative effect on students of color.

"We are so excited that we have this huge victory," Mahnker Dahnweih, Community Organizer with Freedom Inc. said in an interview with NBC15 Monday. "But we're not done yet. We know that until these schools are safe for black youth, our job is not done."

“What would actually be best is trained professionals in trans-formative social justice who are there, who are not police officers that can deescalate and who can help youth work through their conflict and actually also address the situation that led to that conflict in the first place,” Dahnweih said.

Freedom, Inc., the most prominent group calling for an end to SROs in Madison schools, said in a statement that “This great victory is made possible, not only by the leadership of Freedom, Inc.‘s Black and Southeast girls and LGBTQI+ youth here in Madison, but also the many activists and organizers across the country and the world.”

Freedom, Inc. says it will continue to fight for the following goals:

· Accountability processes for school employees who use police against students

· Investment in Black youth in leadership, creativity and wellness

· “Community control” over schools, including youth, parents and adults to have “real decision making power” in schools

“[We’re here] to demand police free schools not just for Madison but for every school across this state and across this nation,” Freedom Inc. Youth Justice Director Bianca Gomez said in a protest last week.

“In our schools, our kids are only about 18% of the population, but eighty-something percent of the arrests and citations,” Gomez said. “That is a disparity that nobody can deny, those reports come straight from the school district and straight from the police department.”

There are others in the Madison community who disagree with the removal of police officers from schools.

"It's going to produce the exact opposite results they want to achieve," Peter Anderson said.

Anderson’s children grew up in Madison schools and now his grandchildren are enrolled.

“I have three grandchildren, all of whom are bi-racial,” Anderson is concerned that the move will make things harder for students of color. “[The School Resource Officers] learn about the kids, they work to get those kids deflected from problems, they are sensitive to the kids’ problems.”

Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl issued the following statement after the vote:

“For years, MPD’s school resource officers have played an instrumental role in maintaining a safe learning environment at MMSD’s four high schools. They’ve developed relationships with faculty, students, and staff; these connections have allowed them greater insight and background when working with MMSD to solve problems (both long-term and short-term) in the schools. The SROs worked seamlessly with school staff, and have had a positive impact on our schools. The progressive way that our school resource officers approached their work is a model for others to follow. It’s disappointing that the program appears to be ending, without recognition of the real work that the SROs have done or understanding of the consequences that will follow their removal from the schools.”

Madison Police Chief Vic Wahl

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