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Monroe County school board votes to disarm school resource officers

Posted at 8:27 PM, May 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-25 22:26:33-04

MONROE COUNTY — Two school resource officers in the Monroe County Community School Corporation will no longer be able to carry firearms after the board amended its policies Tuesday.

The two officers were previous permitted to carry firearms.

"The Board is grateful for the opportunity to hear from our constituents and to understand more completely the many perspectives on the relationships between school resource officers and school safety," Kelly Turmail, communications officer for the school corporation, said in an email to WRTV. "We recognize the vital role that our school resource officers play and they are a valued part of our MCCSC community. We are grateful for the experience that our school resource officers provide in de-escalating situations, helping our schools run smoothly, and in building relationships and connections with our school and community."

April Hennessey, a school board member, said there are ways to keep students and staff members safe.

"I'm not naive necessarily, and perhaps even I understand somewhat thoroughly what it feels like to walk into a school building and have some fear, you know, especially on the heels of some of the events we've seen," Hennessey said. "But I also think we have a commitment to make to all of our students and adults in the buildings, not to front-load our schools with fear and I do think that for many people guns signal or signify we have something to be afraid of."

The motion to revise the policies regarding weapons passed with a 5-1 vote.

Martha Street voted no and made a motion before the vote to delay it while they learned more and for the new superintendent to start. The motion failed because no one seconded it.

In a joint statement from the Indiana School Resource Officers Association and the National Association of School Resource Officers, the associations said they "firmly oppose" the decision and it makes "schools soft targets for lethal violence."

"The success of any SRO program requires that officers be fully equipped to protect and serve and therefore requires them to always be armed while on duty, like any other law enforcement officer," the statement read. "The MCCS board’s decision greatly impedes an officer’s ability to protect students and staff from physical threats on campus."

Turmail said the corporation anticipates further conversations as they work to make the school environments positive and safe.

According to the school corporation's website, two school resource officers are assigned to several buildings. Security guards are also assigned to some school buildings, mainly the district's middle and high schools.

You can read the full statement from the school resource officer associations below.

We firmly oppose last night’s decision by the Monroe County (Indiana) Community School Corporation (MCCS) to prohibit school resource officers (SROs) from carrying their agency-issued firearms while working within the school district.

SRO programs that adhere to NASRO’s published best practices [nasro.org] and use only carefully selected, specifically trained and properly equipped SROs mitigate violence on school campuses. The success of any SRO program requires that officers be fully equipped to protect and serve and therefore requires them to always be armed while on duty, like any other law enforcement officer. The MCCS board’s decision greatly impedes an officer’s ability to protect students and staff from physical threats on campus. Disarming SROs makes schools soft targets for acts of lethal violence and endangers officers who are often the first targets of school violence. This barrier could result in injury to or death of the most vulnerable members of the community – children.

SROs are sworn law enforcement officers by federal and state definitions. Their roles include mentoring, guest speaking and law enforcement. Hindering their ability to fulfill the law enforcement role is detrimental to the program and contrary to the position’s definition. Positive relationships between law enforcement officers and youth are important and any stigma around the profession of law enforcement must be changed. Carefully selected, specifically trained SROs are critical to bridging gaps between youth and law enforcement and helping youth see fully equipped police officers as protectors who help make them safer.

Andrew Smith is a Real-Time Editor at WRTV. You can reach him at andrew.smith@wrtv.com, Twitter or Facebook.