Letter to the editor | Armed resource officer on campus is not a good idea

For three years I worked as a District Nurse for Alameda Unified School District and had many opportunities to work with the School Resource Officers assigned to that district of 10,000 students where issues of crime, violence, truancy, and a population of 300 homeless students merited serious measures at times.

However, PUSD’s concerns of students vaping tobacco or marijuana, and cyberbullying do not seem to warrant having the presence of an armed police officer on campus.

Research shows that reliance on SROs compounds problems of student misconduct by ignoring its root causes. I am not convinced that an armed officer can effectively serve our students in the capacity of counselor, officer, coach, and armed educator.

Research and data show mixed results which often include unintended negative consequences on certain sectors and members of the student body, particularly students of color who are most adversely affected by having an SRO on campus.

In a district where the number of students of color are decreasing dramatically after elementary school and again after middle school, we need to find alternative ways to build a positive, safe, and inclusive school climate that minimizes police intervention and fosters diversity, community, and genuine student support.

Jodi Biskup
Piedmont resident

5 thoughts on “Letter to the editor | Armed resource officer on campus is not a good idea

  1. I absolutely do not support an ongoing armed police presence on our middle and high school campuses, however euphemized by calling it a Resource Officer and putting the person in khakis and a polo shirt. Smoking in the bathrooms does not warrant an armed police presence. Vaping, while of more concern, does not warrant an armed police presence. Bullying, while of even more concern, does not warrant an armed police presence. Chief Bowers kindly provided a copy of the public document listing the reason for police calls to campuses over the period 2013-18. While the number is daunting, there are very few that suggest a need for a fixed, permanent armed police presence. There are many parents who would volunteer to be bathroom and hall monitors, to supplement staff as needed. I’m struck that this whole idea has been crow-barred into a grant intended to address a public health issue around youth tobacco use. And sold to concerned parents in our community with assurances that it’s really not about discipline issues or a real need for a permanent police presence on our campus, but with dark hints of student safety and veiled references to mass shootings or gang activity in other districts. I am deeply grateful for the ongoing collaboration between the District, the site administrations, and our police department to identify and monitor actual security risks, both on- and off-campus. I applaud and honor Chief Bowers and our police officers for their rapid, usually well-calibrated response to calls from the campuses. But nothing I’ve heard justifies normalizing an ongoing, armed police presence on our campuses. I hope that the Exedra will be kind enough to provide copies of all public responses to coverage on this issue to both the School Board and City Council.

  2. I completely agree with these sentiments that an armed SRO is the wrong choice for PUSD. I appreciate the district’s counseling and wellness center resources and would favor more investments in these areas to support our students and teachers. But, a resource officer carrying a gun on campus with our kids? No thank you!

  3. I agree and also feel the presence of a loaded firearm on campus is a very serious risk to institute. There are unfortunately a gamut of incidents (easily searchable) where SRO officers weapons have been misused, misplaced, misfired, obtained by others or where officers have escalated and fired upon students armed only with a cafeteria butter knife or other non lethal threat. With the police department literally a block away from the high school, is a constant armed officer on campus more of a threat and oppressive presence than a student benefit?

  4. I agree 100% that having an armer officer on campus would be harmful to the culture and safety in the Piedmont schools. I can’t imagine why we need this considering that Piedmont already has an excellent and highly responsive police force located a block away from the high school. I would like to see the tobacco prevention grant used for it’s intended use…for a health counselor who can provide education on the dangers of smoking, vaping, and marijuana use as well as effective cessation programs. This grant money seems misdirected. And, it is true that having an armed officer presents an extra threat to students of color or with disabilities/behavioral challenges. This is unjust. I will not send my children to a school with an armed officer because to me that is a school that is unsafe and promotes a discriminatory practice.

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