Without school resource officers, Child Safety Accounts are even more necessary

Without school resource officers, Child Safety Accounts are even more necessary
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Believe it or not, school resource officers could very soon become an endangered species.

In the wake of the death of George Floyd, school districts throughout the country are considering removing school resource officers. On June 12, Denver Public Schools voted unanimously to remove school resource officers (SROs) beginning in the 2020-2021 school year. This is just the tip of the iceberg; many more school districts throughout the country have pledged to do the same.

This is a terrible idea. Public schools are rife with bullying and violence. And teachers have enough on their plates — they cannot also be expected to patrol the school grounds and break up fights.

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I would know. For about five years, I worked as a social studies teacher in a public high school in South Carolina. Fortunately, this school had an excellent school resource officer, who put himself in harm’s way on many occasions. Not only that, he also served as a role model for students and befriended many troubled teenagers.

Trust me, when I was on “hall duty,” I very much appreciated that we had an SRO to get in the middle of student scraps. At my school, the SRO performed a vital function. He made students (and staff) feel safe in an environment that at times felt unsafe. 

Unbeknownst to most Americans, the nation’s public schools are less safe than ever. According to a recent policy brief from the Heartland Institute, “Protecting Students with Child Safety Accounts,” the problem of school violence is already at an epidemic level. For instance, “Roughly four out of five public schools report violent criminal incidents, and one out of five report serious violent criminal incidents taking place on school grounds.” That alone should make SRO opponents rethink their position.

But it gets (or has gotten) worse. “About 150,000 violent acts are committed in U.S. public schools every year," according to the brief. "[B]ut a threat of physical violence isn’t the only reason students don’t feel safe while in school. Children routinely face bullying, sexual harassment and misconduct, gang violence, school shootings, and countless other threats.” And removing SROs is supposed to help with this. What am I missing?

Again, according to the brief, “According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, an estimated 4.8 million students skipped school at some point in the past year because they were afraid of bullying at school, and more than 500,000 students stayed home ‘many times’ because of bullying.” Removing SROs from public schools is likely to embolden bullies. But the same people supporting the termination of SROs also typically support defunding the police, so go figure. Apparently, these people have uncovered an inverse relationship between violence and the presence of police officers. 

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Yet, those opposed to SROs in schools have no viable solution to public-school violence. They just blare talking points about the evils of gun-toting SROs, based on nothing more than their opposition to the idea of guns in schools and the explosion of anti-police sentiment that has recently engulfed the nation.

The truth is that SROs are as necessary in our nation’s public schools as they are in other public places throughout our country. Schools can be dangerous places. Sadly, this is the reality we live in.

Yet, it seems as if the anti-cop bandwagon is packed and rushing full speed ahead. So, what are we to do? Well, for starters, Child Safety Accounts (CSAs) should be available to every student in every state.

What is a CSA? Simply put, a CSA works sort of like an education savings account, but it empowers parents to transfer their children to a safe school of their choice within or beyond their resident public school district.

Removing SROs will lead to more school bullying and violence. To counter this, parents should demand CSAs be made available in every single school district that puts their students in jeopardy by ridding their public schools of school resource officers.

Then all students will have the opportunity to attend a safe school, which is the very least we can do for our nation’s children. 

Chris Talgo (ctalgo@heartland.orgis an editor at The Heartland Institute.