MADISON (WKOW) — School Resource Officers will stay in Madison schools for the next three years but the board is waiting to decide whether there will be three or four.
After more than a year of debate regarding officers in schools, Monday’s decision came in less than 10 minutes. Without discussion, the board voted 4-3 to approve the new contract for the next three years.
School Board President Gloria Reyes said the decision may have come quickly that night but it came after months of consideration.
“It’s time for us to move forward and be innovative while listening to both sides,” she said.
Reyes calls the new contract a compromise. It creates a method to determine who is calling for SRO intervention, review the types of offenses and the gender and race of students involved in these interventions and it allows the board to choose whether or not they’ll reduce the number of student resource officers in the district from four to three. This would mean there would no longer be one officer for each of the four high schools.
The district has until September 15, to decide whether or not they want to pursue this option and determine how the other officers would be reassigned.
“We can’t just jump into something without recognizing the need for our schools,” Reyes said.
The organization, Freedom Inc., has been a vocal opponent of the having the officers in school. After years debating the issue in front of the board, M Adams said this decision doesn’t come far enough.
“I think there are some members of the school board who are listening, who are acting with the interest of saving black children and I think there are others who are not,” she said.
Adams said officers in schools criminalize students, especially students of color and she believes that one of the main factors when it comes to how often black students are arrested or punished in school compared to their white counterparts.
She’s long advocated for the district to remove officers from the schools entirely and said this contract was a chance for the board to make that change.
“Instead of listening to the voices of the community tonight, they instead decided to wipe their hands clean,” Adams said.
Reyes said the board is listening, but these changes can’t come overnight.
“I believe we’ve heard their voice and this is a really big next step for our school district,” she said.
The board also heard criticism from the other side. Madison police released a statement regarding the possibility of losing one of their SROs.
According to police, its important to have one officer for each high school so they’re able to get to know and interact with the students they’re working to protect.
As this decision involves a city agency, the police department, the contract will also have to come before Madison’s common council for final approval.