The Biggest Reason to Keep Cops in School | Opinion

In the aftermath of the George Floyd murder, many public schools across the country hastily decided to cut ties with their local law enforcement agencies. Others may soon take the same position.

This is unquestionably dangerous for many reasons—including those that have nothing to do with crime on campus. These moves portray cops as inherently untrustworthy. That will negatively impact all future interactions between students and police, which itself makes policing more dangerous.

School officials and politicians have posited a number of reasons to push school resource officers (SROs) off their campuses. Informed by preconceived, pre-Floyd notions of policing, almost all of these actions appear driven by bad-faith politics and rank ideological conviction.

Denver, Colorado's public schools unanimously moved to sever their relationships with local police, citing students who are concerned to go to school with cops around. Similarly, in Washington state's Edmonds School District, the board of directors cut most ties with local police departments. The school board president, Deborah Kilgore, claimed that "students of color spoke about how being...student[s] of color, they felt unsafe."

These are not objective, fact-based arguments. Rather, these decisions focus on how some students, particularly students of color, feel when they're around cops. But their feelings of distrust are only fueled and exacerbated by the actions of the ill-advised adults making decisions for them.

A very easy way to repair future relationships between the public and police is to start off by having good relationships. When we interact with cops as adults, it's usually due to a pressing public safety matter or our own low-level criminal behavior, like speeding.

We're anxious, naturally. Imagine what it feels like if you're constantly told cops are out to get you—that they're inherently there to do you harm. That anxiety, fear, anger and distrust lead too many into unnecessarily adversarial encounters with cops.

It doesn't have to be that way if you let SROs meet expectations of their role. But as the debate over police in school rages, some of the decision-makers don't appear to know what SROs even do.

In Madison, Wisconsin, for example, the school district gave police the boot after activists like Bianca Gomez portrayed cops as inherently racists. She claimed that "a police officer in the school whose job is to find and seek out criminals, they're going to automatically target Black children."

SRO in Ohio
SRO in Ohio MEGAN JELINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Let's push aside the racist notion by Gomez that seeking out criminals means SROs will necessarily go after Black children—an odious implication that suggests only Black kids are criminals. Criminal law enforcement is hardly the only role for SROs; it doesn't even have to be the main one. SROs are certainly there for protection and deterrence. But studies show SROs spend considerable time mentoring students, providing medical assistance and enhancing community relations. And, especially in these roles, SROs can truly shine.

When children have positive interactions with SROs throughout their education, it changes their perception of officers. Having a tough time at home? An effective SRO can help guide you with advice. Struggling with the wrong crowd after class? A caring SRO can have your back. Seeing the SRO at the annual science fair reviewing your report can go a long way. And yes, punishing you for spiking the punch bowl can provide some worthwhile life lessons.

"The thing that's most important for the school, and I think any school in this country—especially in light of what's happened in Florida—is relationships," principal Chad Adams of Chicago's Sullivan High School told NPR after the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida. "These school officers that I am lucky enough to have at my school build relationships with kids."

By no means are all SROs perfect. As in all professions, there are bad apples and there are incompetent under-performers.

At Vance County Middle School in Henderson, North Carolina, a SRO was fired after slamming an 11-year-old boy into the ground. And the cowardice of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School's Scot Peterson is believed to have contributed to the deaths of too many students in Parkland.

Ineffective or dangerous SROs can do irreparable harm to student trust in law enforcement. But it makes little sense to judge all SROs by the bad apples among them. We don't, after all, judge all teachers by the few who abuse their power over children.

SROs can provide a host of positive experiences for children—and when your development is informed by those positive experiences, your relationship with law enforcement outside the classroom will be far different. You may still be pulled over for speeding, but you don't assume the officer writing the ticket is out to literally kill you, nor do you assume the worst intentions for why you were pulled over in the first instance. That makes your interaction safer—safer for you, and safer for the officers.

Jason Rantz is a frequent guest on Fox News and is the host of the Jason Rantz Show on KTTH Seattle, heard weekday afternoons. You can subscribe to his podcast here and follow him on Twitter @jasonrantz.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.