Originally published for YellowScene Magazine’s May 2019 issue.
SRO’s at School Year’s End
This legal column began with a piece challenging school resource officers (police) in schools. I end the school year on this topic after a recent shooting at Denver’s STEM School. Lives were very likely saved in that horrific shooting incident when a student of color, Kendrick Ray Castillo, reportedly jumped on the shooter and was fatally shot.
Our DA recently shared that “as the father of 11 year old twins, when I show up and see an officer is [at their school], I’m glad that there’s someone there to protect the kids.” To be fair, he spoke at length on the importance of ensuring those officers don’t act with bias. A white mother of a Black 11 year old replied: “I’m assuming your 11 year old kids are white […] My 11 year old son is Black, and it makes me very nervous any time ANY police are around. So far I’ve said no, do not trust them [the police].”
A member of the NAACP Boulder County Branch Education Committee says the adults making policy decisions are not nearly as diverse as the students they make decisions for. Left unassisted are Black children; she listed several being bullied and receiving an inadequate response from school officials. Black administrators, teachers, and community advocates who wouldn’t normally have to be involved in such concerns have had to step in to assist. Providing such assistance can burn them out from these not-uncommon and unpaid efforts.
The need for social workers and mental health care is so significant that at every school accountability meeting she hears “their hair is on fire” trying to provide it.
The call for more SROs – who are no guarantee of safety and create their own risks – must not drown out the undeniable need for mental health care professionals in our schools. We all want our children safe, and social workers provide the safest first step in solving many of the ills, from suicide to homicide, taking place in our schools.