HAHN: School Resource Officers keep public schools safe

School resource officers (SROs) are specially trained police officers working in all Wake County high schools and nearly every middle school. Through coordination with school administrators, public health officials, and safety experts, SROs help develop safety plans to keep schools safe for students and staff.

The Wake County Board of Education (WCBE), the 16th largest district in the country, consistently recognizes the critical role of SROs in providing safe schools. The WCBE has dramatically increased their on-campus presence over the past several years following mass school shootings, including at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in 2018.

Last month, in the wake of the George Floyd protests, outside groups Education Justice Alliance and Southern Coalition for Social Justice sent a letter to WCBE demanding “the immediate end of all school policing contracts with local law enforcement agencies and greater investments in alternatives to school policing.” When WCBE put the issue up for a vote, school board member Monika Johnson-Hostler cast the lone vote to remove SROs from Wake County schools.

With her vote, Ms. Johnson-Hostler stands in opposition to the desires of school administrators.  In a recent survey by Education Week, teachers show strong support for the Black Lives Matter movement, but also overwhelmingly support school resource officers. The survey of 1,150 U.S. teachers cited protection against outsiders and shootings as the main reasons that educators support the presence of SROs.

Surprisingly, nearly 1 in 3 teachers surveyed also wanted protection against being assaulted by students.

When our kids in Wake County finally return to school, we need to protect them from harm. 

What harm? From the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction website:

Since 2014, there have been 3,300 reported crimes in Wake County Schools. Here are the highlights:

-179 sexual assaults

-1,700 possession of a weapon

-30 possessions of a firearm

Wake County School Board Policy promises students, families, and all staff a safe and orderly working environment.  From the WCPS website:

“School Board Policy prohibits harassment and bullying behavior at all levels. The Wake County Board of Education places a priority on providing every student and employee with a safe and orderly learning and working environment.”

If Wake County school board member Monika Johnson-Hostler had her way, 162,000 students and nearly twenty thousand employees will be in harm’s way while in school.

Wake County schools needs to continue its School Safety policy because we cannot allow our children to feel unsafe in school. We must do better at enforcing a zero tolerance for discrimination, harassment and bullying (including cyber-bullying) – for any reason including religious and political discrimination. Wake County School Board Policy Code: 1710/4021/7230 is in place, but we must ensure its equal application.

Importantly, our schools must continue to foster effective working relationships with our SROs.

Wake County Public School’s SRO program reflects our community’s desire to protect our schools, keeping them safe, secure and orderly.

Greg Hahn is running for Wake County school board District 2 against Monika Johnson-Hostler