South Bend residents split over SBCSC's decision to keep School Resource Officers
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- After months of community efforts to remove School Resource Officers-- or SROs-- from South Bend schools, the school corporation renewed its contract Monday night with the South Bend and St. Joseph County police departments to continue to have SROs.
The new agreement is in effect until Summer 2023, unless the contract is renewed before that time. The school district is responsible for paying the officers, but the departments are responsible for equipment and benefits.
Residents are split on whether SROs are the right way to go in the schools.
“You should have, not necessarily an officer because that is so extreme," said Shakira Washington, who has a child attending South Bend schools.
Activist groups, like Black Lives Mater South Bend, argued that having SROs makes students feel unsafe, especially students of color, and that the money spent on having police in schools would be better spent on counselors who can address problems and work to resolve them at the source.
Washington said “Those counselors could help the children get into after school programs, they could help them socially if they feel awkward or anything like that, you know? And they can really impact a child’s life versus being traumatized by seeing an officer everywhere.”
“They should be in the schools to make sure that the kids are safe,” said one concerned citizen, who preferred to remain anonymous. "We need police officers. They should not be viewed as a threat, they are there to protect you and serve the community.”
While she agreed that counselors have their place in schools, she added “A counselor is not going to be able to deal with a situation when someone has a knife on them or a gun on them. We need people who are qualified to handle these situations so they don’t escalate. The reality of the situation is it’s much different today than it was even ten years ago, in the schools. And with the events of the last year and a half, tensions are even higher. You must have a trained person there to deter a situation when it presents itself.”
“I do feel like you could have both in a sense," she said. "But more so on the ‘helping people’ side.”
The corporation confirmed that the new agreement would allow for a total of four SROs in South Bend schools.