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Madison's school board president now supports removal of SROs from schools

Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes (Source: MMSD)
Madison School Board President Gloria Reyes (Source: MMSD)(NBC15)
Published: Jun. 9, 2020 at 3:34 PM CDT
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Madison's School Board President now recommends that the Board of Education incorporate a strategy of options in order to ultimately remove school resource officers (SROs) from Madison schools.

Board President Gloria Reyes said in a letter on Tuesday that while SROs have provided benefits for students, the culmination of recent "racially motivated events have served to increase the emotional and psychological impact that having SROs in our schools has on our students."

As a result, Reyes urges the School Board to pursue a "a viable alternative" to SROs in school buildings.

Her letter comes just days after the Madison teachers union, MTI,

in which they called the school district to remove all school resource officers from schools as soon as the district has the resources to fill positions like psychologists, social workers and others that can take on duties held by SROs.

It also comes over a year after the Madison Common Council adopted a new contract for school resource officers in the district. According to that three-year contract, MMSD would work with police to pull one of the four SROs from one of the high schools in the future. The contract began with four SROs, one in each of the district's four high schools.

It is because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Reyes explains, that that three-year contract between the school district and the police department is currently on pause.

Reyes says that moving forward, the school district will work to create a new board of education sub-committee, which will consist of students, parents, teachers and others in order to review what might replace SROs in the district.

Reyes continues that this sub-committee will focus on prevention and mitigation, as well as "re-imagining our partnership" with the police department.

However, Reyes adds that the police department will continue to play an "important role" in the district's response to incidents in schools, according to her letter.

In regard to the teachers union, MTI, Reyes says she supports their call for the removal of SROs and the reevaluation of resources needed to help students and staff.

Reyes concluded by saying that "Across the country, the use of SROs in schools has been widely debated, resulting in many different approaches on how SROs are utilized. Today, I see an opportunity for change, and reinventing our approach so that we continue to achieve our goal of providing safe, welcoming learning environments for all.

"If we don't have SROs, I think we increase the likelihood that we're going to have officers that don't have that specialized training and that's something I think is overlooked," Jim Palmer, Wisconsin Professional Police Association Executive Director said.

Palmer explains there's a need for officers to be in schools and taking SROs out the equation can do more harm than good.

"Those officers have different training. You need training specific to working in a school environment, working with children," Palmer said. "There are still going to be calls to our schools regardless if officers are working in them or not."

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