City News

Local activist organizations discuss removing officers from Madison schools

Organizers from three local activist organizations held a meeting to address the use of educational resource officers in Madison schools. 

Image By: Ethan Fenske

The Derail the Jail Coalition partnered with representatives from local organizations in hosting a meeting Sunday to address education resource officers in Madison schools, which they say adversely affect many student groups.

According to the student organizers, including those from Freedom Inc. and Freedom Youth Squad, students of color and those who have disabilities are often unfairly targeted by on-school police officers.

The Madison school board is addressing the use of EROs and is considering recommendations to improve the program.

One of their primary concerns is that police officers being on-site at schools hasn’t helped prevent violence. Instead, they argue, once officers respond, their focus is mostly on punishment. According to MMSD statistics, 86% of arrests in or near MMSD high schools involved black students, although only 19% of the student body is black.

Additionally, just under half of the incidents described in their reports occurred off-campus, which makes organizers wonder if funds being spent on officers in school could be better allocated to help students from low-income homes.

The groups argue that the $360,000 annually spent on the four police officers could be spent in ways to help the students of color who are currently being unjustly targeted.

They suggested that the funds could be better spent on school supplies, lunches and after-school programs.

“If we have a lot of the things that Freedom Inc. has been demanding, and organizations like Derail the Jail have been demanding, like real, community based mental health and programs to ensure the well-being of our students, we would see much more positive change in our communities,” said Nino Rodriguez, a speaker on behalf of Derail the Jail.

Speakers also talked about the ineffectiveness of on-site police officers in school shooting scenarios. Critics of EROs note that since the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, only one school shooting was stopped by an on-site officer.

This reality exists even as state legislators suggest increasing the use of EROs to prevent mass shootings, like the one last month in Parkland, Fla.

Adding resource officers would be a part of Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed $100 million school safety bill.

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