Putting SROs in schools is the wrong move

From Issue 1: School board putting more police in schools is not helping anyone

By Channing Morse

With the recent rise in school shootings, school safety has become an issue at the forefront of politics. Locally, with school resource officers (SROs) being added to middle schools, the perspective of students and the impact on their mental health is being neglected.

In a meeting on 8 August 2022, superintendent Anthony Lewis explained the new school resource officer situation. One SRO would be added to each middle school, and one would continue serving in each high school. 

Before the August resolution, there have been 2 officers in each high school, and they check up on the middle and elementary as needed. Questions about their utility and benefit have been brought up. Are school resource officers really necessary to keep a safe school environment?

School resource officers are local police officers who are trained to be in a school environment. While SROs are introduced as a solution to and harbinger of school safety, they really cause more harm than help. 

While in schools they are in full uniform, armed, and have body cameras on the front of their uniforms. This causes anxiety in some students who see them around the school. They are not involved in student discipline and are just in the building. So what can we do instead of using SROs in the building? 

There are 13 school psychologists in the USD 497 school district, but there are 22 schools of varying levels. There are approximately 11,430 students in the district. The number of students divided by the number of psychologists shows there are roughly 880 students per psychologist. These numbers prove that what we need are more mental health resources. There are simply too many students who need help, who will go unaided. We need more psychologists and people that students feel comfortable talking and solving problems with.  

As a student, it was surprising to learn about the school safety protocols, and disappointing to see how little we really knew about our own safety regulations. 

On August 11th the district held a safety meeting regarding safety protocols. The students whose parents or guardians didn’t attend will be left entirely out of the loop. During the school year, students get very little information on school safety outside the occasional drill or presentation. Why aren’t we keeping students in the loop? 

The lack of mental health resources combined with additional SROs in middle schools, brings up the question of, what else can we do? Aside from hiring more psychologists or mental health employees and keeping students more informed, we can look to other schools for ideas. 

After the spring incident at Olathe East High School, the school gave each staff member a “panic button,” where if they push it eight times, all the doors lock and the school goes into safety mode. The badges can also help if there is a medical emergency. This is a much better option that requires fewer bodies in the school and is more discrete. Workarounds like this allows students to be less anxious and more in control. 

SROs often wander around the building, and it’s not really necessary for them to stay in school all day. They only need to come over is when there is an emergency, and there are plenty of police officers nearby if something does arise. We do not need armed police officers in schools all day if we have security guards and mental health resources to help students.